June 19, 2015 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
The Media Reform Coordinating Group (MRCG), with the consultancy provided by Professor Ritchard M’Bayo and funds from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), yesterday engaged authorities at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone and stakeholders on a validation workshop on the Mass Communication Curriculum Review. The group also presented a proposal seeking support for the establishment of a centre of excellence for journalism education in Sierra Leone.
In her opening remarks, media academic and veteran, Mrs. Bernadette Cole, said the curriculum review is a very important component in educational institutions as knowledge is fluid and not static, while the changing demands of the media industry call for periodic review of programmes and courses offered at the Mass Communication Department in the university and other media training institutions.
She opined that such would ensure the graduates are adequately equipped with the requisite knowledge and skills to be relevant in the job market, and that it behoves education planners, implementers and stakeholders to review courses and programmes periodically, to ensure their continued relevance to the needs of the 21st century media.
She said the Mass Communication Department at Fourah Bay College is the first to introduce journalism training in the University of Sierra Leone and that it has indeed come a long way from the introduction of Certificate in Mass Communication since it was established in 1993.
She continued that the programme evolved through to Diploma in 1995, Bachelor of Arts in 2002, Post-graduate Diploma in 2005, and Master of Arts and Master of Philosophy degrees, respectively introduced in 2007, adding that plans are underway to establish a Doctor of Philosophy degree.
She told participants that there had been periodic curriculum reviews by the faculty who initially included professors, senior lectures and lectures from well established journalism schools in Nigerian universities and local staff at the Mass Communication Department and relevant department at FBC.
She said the emphasis has not been solely on academic work but practical as well, evident in their attempts to establish a teaching radio station – Radio Mount Aureol – with support from the international community, including Irish Aid, DFID, the government of Germany and the European Union.
She said a teaching newspaper called ‘Aureol Torch’ and a film production unit which was to be the nucleus of a TV station and video production were established in the past, adding that the original concept has evolved to meet not only the demands of the job market but to prepare students for self-employment and entrepreneurship.
Giving a background to the formation of the MRCG, Ransford Wright, who is the chairman, said it was established in May 2014 and comprises key stakeholders in the media industry and academic institutions like the Mass Communication Department, Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, IMC, Ministry of Information and Communications, Guild of Editors, WIMSAL, SLRU and others.
He said the MRCG is an independent corporate entity which will act as the key driver of the media reform agenda in Sierra Leone, and as part of a media development strategy which is the outcome of a study that was conducted in 2013 to map the capacity needs of the media.
He revealed that the study was followed by several consultations and stakeholders workshops, culminating into four priority areas which form the basis of the strategy – to improve ethics in the media through regulatory or self-regulatory mechanisms, promoting transparency and independent allocation of licenses and handling of complaints and stimulating an enabling regulatory and political environment for professional and pluralistic media, sustainable and independent public service broadcasting serving everyone in the country, plus strengthened professionalism and sustainability of organisations and improved people’s participation in the media development strategy and content.
Wright said the objectives of the Sierra Leone media development strategy are derived from the four priorities.
He said the Curriculum Review Validation workshop was a fulfillment of one of their objectives, which is to strengthen professionalism and improve public participation in media development, adding that the Mass Communication Department has produced great media practitioners in the country.
He said the new curriculum would not only service Fourah Bay College but other institutions as well, and that it would also guide lecturers on how to lecture students.
Also speaking, Edward Kamara, Portfolio Manager at the UNDP, said they have done a lot for the media in the country by supporting media houses with equipment and other needs.
He said the media is considered as one of the key pillars of democracy anywhere in the world, thus the reason they have been working closely with the media by providing support and helping transform the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service to a corporation, passing on equipment of the defunct UN Radio to the corporatised national broadcaster for improved services.
Kamara said they have supported other media organisations like Cotton Tree News and Independent Radio Network, as well as provided support to the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists in the fight against the Ebola virus disease in the country.