The ‘Astrida Syndrome’

Back when I was a teenager, my Mum and Dad had only one dream for me - to become a successful person in society. And, to that end, they imparted two ‘magic words’ that would haunt me for the rest of my life: “University Degree”!

Back when I was a teenager, my Mum and Dad had only one dream for me - to become a successful person in society. And, to that end, they imparted two ‘magic words’ that would haunt me for the rest of my life: “University Degree”!

As far as they were concerned, along with other parents at the time, success in life was simply inconceivable without having frequented the corridors of ‘higher learning’ institutions. Despite my obvious and natural affinity for the arts, it just wasn’t a serious option to be given any consideration.

So in order to get appreciation for my God given talents, I had to first impress my folks with the best grades from the topnotch establishment I was privileged to attend. And so I did; and they were proud!

Far from me to sound ungrateful to them- God rest their souls- as they meant no harm and I must admit that my academic background gave me more than enough weight and strengths for my future ambitions. My folks, unfortunately, were the victims of what I like to call the ‘Astrida Syndrome’.

Those days, our parents’ position on the matter was solely influenced by that of the ‘muzungu’ to whom they owed this ‘elitist’ view of a world led by a privileged ‘educated’ few to the detriment of others.

But times have changed and so has the world. The power of knowledge is now accessible to all, in various forms. The Global Village, that has become this world, is growing in opportunities thanks to the exchange of ideas facilitated by the marvels of modern technology. We now know and understand that not everyone needs to be a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer or otherwise to become a success story.

We have also come to know what wasn’t apparent to our folks then: under the right set of circumstances, talent is equal to success. Our God given creativity is today opening new doors to a wealth of untapped opportunities. Could this new and unexpected turn of events be signaling the End of ‘Elitism’ in our societies? Not by a long shot. Just recently, we have witnessed the full frontal attack by the ‘Astrida Syndrome’ against the media as it braces itself to take on the whole creative industry.

Having been invited to so many meetings and stakeholders consultations on “media policies” and amending media law, it is my utmost conviction that most of the people consulted on those issues are affected by the Astrida Syndrome and are only “enjoying” the creative industry from a consumer’s perspective. They are not the actors.

They firmly believe that journalists need a university degree. And they tend to systematically compare it with other professions like doctors or engineers.

I guess I’ll be asked in future consultations to advocate for musicians and other artists to go for a university degree too. Think about the upcoming “Kitokos, The Bens, Meddys, Shanels …” what will happen once we start demanding of them to attend University first?

If our decision makers are infected by the syndrome what can we do as practitioners? Nothing else than experience,  proves our viewpoint. To own a press card you need all the nitty-gritty prescribed in the law. Then why do you need the press card ? What advantages does one get from that? Maybe you’ll argue that you can’t go to official government functions without it. Fine, leave that to the Astrida Boys.

The “Professional Journalists” without the Astrida Level will handle the rest of the news. But it would be a loss for the official government functions not to get the coverage from those “professional journalists”.

Is this opinion a call to revolt? Not at all! It is a call to wake up and smell the coffee before we shoot ourselves in the foot by making counterproductive decisions.

Need I remind anyone that the worst actors of the “Hate Media” were educated people with higher learning degrees? Most people, who are a threat to the society, by using media, are going beyond the edges by consciously flawing the journalistic ethics. It has very little to do with ignorance or lack of education. Let them face the law protecting individual rights of the citizens, in case they aren’t being respected.

Imagine if our local artists started to write and produce songs like the kind of articles that caused some papers to be closed and banned. If they don’t, is it because they have a degree and journalists don’t? And if they did, which broadcaster would play them and risk to be banned just like those papers? Do the owners of those radios have a higher degree than the owners of those papers? Maybe not, but they definitely have more sense of entrepreneurship and would not jeopardize their enterprises for the sake of ignorance.

In conclusion, allow me to share this rather interesting fact: Did you know that the top 20 journalists in this world do not possess the degrees requested by the Rwandan media law? Yet they have proven to be professionals, far more experienced on the matter than the people who drafted the law. The road to absolute freedom of speech in Rwanda may still be, understandably, long, but this is a step in the wrong direction. Media is part of the creative industry; let it be treated as such. If we are to stay as competitive and efficient in this industry, there is no time to dilly-dally about this…

Let’s get rid of the ‘Astrida Syndrome’.


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