SADC universities called upon to impart practical media skills

By Lahja Nashuuta

Windhoek – Institutions of higher learning in southern Africa have been urged to put more emphasis on practical training in addition to theoretical knowledge to media studies and communication students in order to meet the industry needs brought about by digitalisation.

This is one of many recommendations made during a panel discussion at the SADC-SABA Broadcasting Forum, which was hosted by Namibia, alongside the Fifth Africa and Digitalisation Conference that ended on Friday.

About 200 information and communication technology and media experts from across the continent met to review progress made in digital migration, technology and the future of broadcasting across Africa.

The SADC-Southern Africa Broadcasting Association (SABA) Broadcasting Forum held on Monday and Tuesday took stock of progress made in Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) migration in the region among member states and the future of broadcasting.

The regional forum was held under the theme “Strategies for Stimulating Content Production and Creating an Enabling Environment for Sustainable Telling of African Stories”.  Regional experts discussed whether university curriculums and skills training were aligned to the current and evolving needs of the industry.

SADC members states are struggling to successfully migrate from analogue to digital terrestrial television, with only Namibia, Malawi, Mauritius and Tanzania being the only countries that have managed to beat the June 2015 deadline to have do so.

However, the successful transition from analogue to digital broadcasting is not only hampered by inability to acquire new technologies, but also lack of necessary skills among university graduates to meet the needs of digital broadcasting.

The DTT is expected to expand broadcasting space in the continent with more channels that provide opportunities for African broadcasters, including journalists, to produce more local content, hence training institutions, including universities, have been called upon to equip graduates with necessary technical skills.

The director-general of Lesotho National Broadcaster, Dada Moqasa, said most broadcasters in SADC would be struggling to source local content even after migrating to DTT and would continue to show western programmes due to a miss-match between courses offered at the universities and the skills needed by the media industry.

Contributing to the discussion, Austin Bongani Dlamini, the director-general of Swazi TV, said the issue of skills development has been left in the hands of training institutions alone “but it should be everyone’s business to ensure that young people are equipped with relevant skills to be able to meet the job market”.

Musa Simon, a media studies graduate from the University of Namibia (UNAM) said the university puts more emphasis on theoretical approach as opposed to the recent trends towards the empirical acquisition of knowledge involving more hands-on experience.

“Our universities, especially here in Namibia, are more into theory. For instance at the University of Namibia we spend almost the whole four years focussing on theory and one can only get exposed to practical training during internship, which in most cases only lasts for three month,” said Simon, who works for Desert Soul, a Namibian multi-media company. Simon noted that local media companies, especially broadcasters including the state-owned Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), preferred hiring students from Namibia College of Arts that offers diplomas because their curriculum focuses more on practical training in digitals camera, lighting, sound recording and editing, and layout and designs, unlike at universities like UNAM.

Sharing the same sentiments was Tabeth Mazorodze, a media graduate from the University of Zimbabwe and currently a senior official at the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ), who said Zimbabwean universities were also not immune from this problem.

“When I graduated from the university, I thought I knew, just to realise that I was lacking lots of practical skills when I started working for a film company,” said Mazorodze, who is now the director of broadcast content compliance at BAZ.

However, Mazorodze said things have now changed after the broadcasting authority came up with a strategy that included providing financial support, providing further practical training  as well as  employing  what are known as line producers to secure the equipment and to supervise the production and making sure that they stick to timeline.

Line producers are people who studied film making from the universities who have both practical and theoretical experience, she said.

The permanent secretary in Namibia’s Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology, Mbeuta Ua Ndjarakana emphasised the importance of digital broadcasting.

He said it brought a variety of benefits that included better sound and picture, increased consumer choices as more programmes and content would be accessed, had internet access through digital TV, interactive services, video on demand and information services.

October 2017
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