21st Century Journalism XXVIII: The Rwanda InitiativeAn important change introduced following the Rwandan genocide of 1994 was concerted effort to improve the performance of Rwandan news media, some of which were implicated in the genocide.
Recognizing Rwandan journalists' and aspiring journalists' need for solid practical training, Allan Thompson, a journalism professor at Carleton University's School of Journalism and Communication in Ottawa, launched the Rwanda Initiative in January 2006. The Initiative is a joint effort between Carleton and the School of Journalism and Communication at the National University of Rwanda (NUR). The NUR journalism school has only been in existence since 1996.
The introduction to the Initiative's blog reviews the situation the Initiative seeks to address:
The media sector in Rwanda was devastated by the 1994 Genocide. Most professional journalists were killed, exiled or implicated in the slaughter through their involvement with hate media. The media sector remains traumatized. Many working journalists lack professional training and the journalism school is chronically short-staffed.To supplement Rwanda's slim cadre of journalism educators, teachers from Carleton serve as visiting lecturers at NUR. In addition, the Initiative helps with curriculum development, runs an internship program for Canadian journalism students at Rwandan media organizations, and collaborates with NUR in organizing media-training workshops for working journalists.
As Thompson explained in June of last year, "The essence of Carleton's Rwanda Initiative has been to address both sides of [the] media equation, to build the capacity of the media in Rwanda and to foster an interest in Africa among a new generation of Canadian journalists."
The Rwanda Initiative has also sponsored internships in Canada for Rwandan journalism students. You can read about the experiences of one of the interns, Eugene Kwibuka, in the July-September 2007 issue of Intercultures Magazine. In his article Kwibuka mentions his experience covering the trial in Montreal of a suspected genocide participant, but he concentrates on explaining how the Rwanda Initiative's training has helped him and his fellow students:
The big difference between [the Canadian lecturers'] way of training and that of Rwandan lecturers is the fact they put a particular emphasis on practice rather than theory. They step in journalism classrooms equipped with materials like cameras, computers and notebooks. They show students how to use them, then assign them to do stories. They make students learn by doing.A little later today, I will be meeting with a friend (American) who taught literature at NUR several years before the genocide. I will be interested to hear his thoughts about the approach the Rwanda Initiative is taking to helping the country's journalists become more professional and more effective in promoting understanding in their country.
Most journalism students at the National University of Rwanda will tell you that what they enjoy about Canadian lecturers is practice. They love being introduced to new techniques of how to pitch a story, how to take a nice shot, how to use ambient sounds in a radio story and how to deal with ethical issues in journalism. It’s helpful that the lecturers who are teaching them these techniques are themselves practicing journalists or have been journalists for a long time.