Different media outlets and university lecturers met recently to discuss how the curriculum of journalism studies in Rwandan universities, with many saying that it does not meet the current needs of the industry.
Jean Bosco Rushingabigwi the Head of Department of the Media Sector Coordination Monitoring Department at Rwanda Governance Board (RGB), said that the media sector is still weak and has a long way to go and to do.
“We still have a long way to go in terms of capacity, and this mean skills and resources, we want learning institutions to produce skilled journalists the curriculum needs to be more practical than theoretical,” said Rushingabigwi, who is also a media trainer.
It has been observed that students in universities don’t have resources in their schools to help them get practical skills, and a short period of time allotted for their internships is another a barrier to acquiring the needed skills from media houses.
Two stakeholder meetings were conducted on 29, April and 13, May this year, and the one conducted last week was meant to help them come up with a working document that will be submitted to universities to guide the curriculum review consideration.
Albert Baudouin Twizeyimana, the coordinator of Pax Press said: “in terms of ethics, the reason some journalists in Rwanda lack ethical values comes from what they were taught in school and how they practiced it, therefore, universities need to review their curricula to be able to produce professional and skilled journalists”.
Meanwhile, stakeholders suggested that for an entry-level exam be introduced for students wishing to pursue journalism – an exam that would focus mainly on language.
According to them, some of the students or even graduate do not master any language, which makes it difficult for them to communicate effectively, while others requested universities to reconsider the one month internship period, which they said was not enough.
Festus Irungu, a mass communication lecturer at Mount Kenya University (MKU Rwanda), said that what is already in the curriculum is good but there is a need to update it.
“If you look at the digital field, there are few courses, so there is need to add in more digital-oriented units because we are heading in the direction of digital media,” he said.
He added that also students shouldn’t be left out of this, and therefore should be more passionate, initiative, and creative.
Others he said should be brought on board during the formulation of the new curriculum are the employers whom he say have interacted with graudates and who therefore know the gaps that need to be plucked.
Peace Hillary Tumwesigire, the Managing Director of Family Magazine, a local publication said that when interns or graduates join her media house, she finds them lacking in terms of skills and clarity on how journalism is done.
“They do a lot of courses in school but they only do it for marks and end up lacking real experience of how journalism is done, they have never been to the field to learn about what challenges there… they also struggle to do the basics in journalism, like finding an angle, or structuring a story which sometimes makes it hard for us editors too,” she said.
Nevertheless, her institution takes time to offer graduates and interns training on the basics they need.
Students also believe that specialisation should start in the curriculum, Jean Luck Sibomana, a graduate of Institut Catholique de Kabgayi (ICK), said: “Specialisation in journalism should start at university because what we learn is too generalized.”
He said that with specialisation, students will be able to have time to do more practical reporting which will make them fine products upon graduation.