As the Kenyan government enacts unprecedented media laws aimed at ‘restoring sanity’ to the journalism profession, its media training institutions should be scrutinized for minting millions of shillings while churning out half-baked graduates.
The School of Journalism at the publicly-funded University of Nairobi has admitted over 500 students since 2006 without investing in vital training equipment.
Its amazing that the once-respected media institution lacks video and still cameras. There are neither digital recorders nor studios. The School of Journalism lacks a training newspaper for aspiring print journalists. Its library is a pale shadow of what it is supposed to be.
School of Journalism has only 16 computers to cater for hundreds of students who need to finish assignments on time. The computers are allegedly of poor quality and students – who are already paying through the nose for the facilities – have little choice but to visit commercial cybercafes to complete their papers on time.
There are fears that School of Journalism graduates will not gain the requisite skills to cope with global reporting standards. The prospects of graduating without handling a video camera is raising concern among students. Three years of empty promises has forced them to blow the whistle on a complacent administration.
Students writing to the Nairobi Chronicle say that the School of Journalism charges among the highest fees at the University of Nairobi without providing value for money.
“We are paying Kshs11,500 (US$147) for every unit while other courses are charging less than that. In order to graduate, you should have done 50 units. The total cost including examination fees, library, computer use and medical insurance adds up to more than Shs500,000 ($6410) for the degree.”
“We don’t have broadcast equipment, classrooms are in a pathetic state and the administration of the institution has been a disappointment. The management does not communicate with students and many times we are ambushed with decisions that affect us,” the students lament.
The students further add that the institution sometimes hires rooms at the nearby Young Men Christian Association (YMCA) but the structures are reportedly worse than the main campus.
Students complain about lecturers missing classes with impunity and leaving early when they show up. “Classes that are supposed to end at 8:30pm end at 7:00 and there are no make ups.”
The affected students say that pleas to the School’s Director, Wambui Kiai, continue to yield empty promises. In any case, the soft-spoken Director is unaccessible.
Following student threats to petition Vice Chancellor George Magoha, the Director issued a circular stating that grievances should be submitted through class representatives. The move did not go down well with the aspiring scribes, majority of whom are clamoring for major reforms at the media training facility.
Students are wondering what the institution is doing with millions of shillings collected since 2006 and yet a modern digital studio could easily have been acquired with the money. Students stated that activity fees have not been utilized. Not a single trip has been organized by the institution in recent memory.
Students reveal that the school has not cultivated linkages with Kenya’s media industry. Media personalities have never been invited to provide mentorship or talks as would normally be expected. The rival Department of Literature is doing much better because it regularly hosts editors, diplomats and other personalities to share useful career experiences.
The Anvil newspaper, supposed to train journalists, has suffered a quiet death. Only one issue has been published in the past five years and that was because a visiting American professor donated her own money. It is rumored that a senior lecturer at the institution has refused to let go of the Anvil’s management.
Students are urging the Ministry of Education to intervene and stop further enrollments at the School of Journalism until the necessary facilities are in place. Otherwise, more Kenyans will be short-changed.
The other public journalism school, the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication, is not faring much better.