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UNESCO’s initiative to strengthen journalism schools in Africa gains momentum

07-10-2009 (Paris)
UNESCO’s initiative to strengthen journalism schools in Africa gains momentum
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UNESCO’s initiative to upgrade journalism schools in Africa to Centers of Excellence and Centers of Reference in journalism education is gaining momentum.
Recently, UNESCO and the Science and Technology Commission of the African Union signed an agreement in support of 21 of those Centers, the first-ever journalism department at the University of Bangui in Central African Republic as opened in collaboration with one of the Centers (ESSTIC), international twinning arrangements were facilitated and study tours between the potential Centers of Excellence and internationally based Universities were organized.

In a recent meeting hosted in South Africa, the potential Centers of Excellence identified two priorities for the 2010: new media training for African journalism teachers and a journalism research colloquium to lead into the 2nd World Congress on Journalism Education in the same year. Rhodes University, a lead partner in the initiative, is mobilizing resources to provide the training and to take a lead in the organization of the research colloquium. The University set in motion an advanced degree programme for training of trainers in journalism education with the support of the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) last year.

“Ethical and professional standards in journalism practice are essential to enable media as a platform for democratic discourse and to foster citizen’s participation in decision-making and development processes,” said Wijayananda Jayaweera, Director of UNESCO‘s Communication Development Division. He noted that UNESCO’s efforts to improve the quality of journalism training in Africa will take into account the application of UNESCO’s model curricula on journalism education. The curricula respond to the challenge faced by trainee journalists in meeting cross-disciplinary education and verification skills that are necessary for professional reporting.

“The model curricula offer students a broad framework of general knowledge as well as that of current affairs,” explained Jayaweera, “Journalists are required to think critically in short periods of time and explain issues clearly to others in narrative and descriptive formats,” he added.

All of the journalism schools in Africa that have committed to upgrading their institutions to a standard of excellence in journalism education have reviewed the model curricula and are exploring ways of adapting the content. The model curricula promote detailed syllabi for 17 courses based on the norms and standards of journalism practice. They are designed to prepare the student to meet diverse intellectual challenges: social, cultural, political, economic, legal and ethical.

Nevertheless, responding to journalism education is only one of many priorities relative to media capacity building in the African context. Participants of the International Broadcasting and Climate Change Conference in Paris in early September stressed the need for increased support to media development in Africa.
Related themes/countries

      · Africa
      · Training of Media Professionals
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