Sudan Radio Service (SRS) has partnered with the University of Juba to create a new university program for southern Sudan’s future broadcast journalists. The initiative expands the reach of SRS, created in 2003 to provide southern Sudan with quality, independent news and information while building the region’s capacity in professional journalism. SRS is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC).
EDC’s Colin Lasu, a Ph.D. candidate in journalism at Ohio University and the Senior Journalism Trainer for the program, noted that the program helps SRS reach its goals of providing more information, and information of a different kind, to the people of southern Sudan. “Especially in the South, there is a huge gap of reliable information,” Lasu said. And although there is high demand for long-term journalism training, courses offered by various institutions have been mostly short-term. SRS’s program will provide that long-term training with a different approach to what qualifies as newsworthy. “Traditionally journalism has been done with a sense of ‘the Big Guy talks’ and that’s the news,” he explained.
Academic Course and Practical Experience
Based at the University of Juba campus in the capital of southern Sudan, the Certificate in Broadcast Journalism (CBJ) program is a one-year course of study open to Sudanese men and women interested in formal media training. Lasu noted that the certificate program provides its participants with “enough of the [journalism] basics so somebody can easily transition into a college degree program and not get lost there.” It emphasizes writing as one of the key components of journalism and ensures that students are “very comfortable in working in a state-of-the-art radio station environment.” The program uses a combination of lectures, multimedia presentations, software and hardware training, case studies, hands-on exercises, and field trips.
CBJ students have short-term training opportunities with external journalism professionals and hands-on workshops at the new Sudan Radio Service FM (SRS FM) station in Juba (to read more about the station, click here). The radio station is expected to open in October and will host a classroom for the CBJ program. “I am really looking forward to it,” Lasu says. “It is our classroom; it will be quite exciting.”
CBJ’s first seven students have already begun the program and Lasu expects to take in 10 to 12 students at a time in future years. The certificate given upon completion of the program is the first academic credential in journalism available in southern Sudan. According to Lasu, it makes a person “very marketable,” and program graduates will be able to start careers in journalism at radio stations and newspapers throughout the country.
A Different Concept of the News
Lasu shared that his students often feel uneasy about interviewing ordinary people and exploring how political events and policies will affect them. ”We are trying to move people away from the notion that news is about a head honcho sitting in an office somewhere. It has been a fairly different concept to say, ‘Hey, there are different people that need to be involved; they are part of the story too,’” says Lasu.
By teaching students that “news, at the end of the day, is about ordinary people,” the CBJ program will help contribute to a better-informed and more active civil society in Sudan.