Last week, the Media High Council organised a two-day national dialogue on media development. Several celebrated media personalities from East Africa were invited to offer their wise counsel on various media issues.
There are several proposals on how the media in Rwanda can be developed; these certainly could not be exhausted by a two-day conference of media practitioners. The development of the media should not be only looked at from the angle of attracting investors to set up media houses.
We should also think critically about the consumers of media products and skilled personnel to run these media houses. Shall we also invite these from outside Rwanda just like the Media High Council invited Andrew Mwenda and Robert Kabushenga from Uganda or Reginald Mengi from Tanzania? I think not.
We need to look into the ways in which we can nurture media consumers and practitioners. How do we create a sizeable market for media products in order to make the sector more profitable and thus attract investors? Like all other sectors, we need to use the lower school system to lay a firm foundation for a better media sector.
In the first place, we need to see to it that school going children are taught the importance of reading. More importantly, we need to inculcate in them a culture of seeking knowledge. In other words, it’s not just about creating a reading culture but more precisely a knowledge-seeking culture.
This can be done by regularly conducting general knowledge quizzes as well as educating students about the current affairs at the national and global level. They should not only ask questions about the goals scored by Lionel Messi or Christiano Ronaldo but also about Barack Obama, Prince William or the ongoing war on drugs in Mexico.
Professional footballers start playing the game when they are still young and in school. This also applies for journalists. This business of someone completing university education and then deciding to be a journalist should stop henceforth.
We should instead focus on those with the passion for journalism while they are still in primary school. Teachers should look out for promising future newsreaders, reporters or writers and then facilitate and encourage them to pursue their dreams.
The best writers or journalists are those who have always wanted to do just that and not those who were lucky to join journalism school while at the university. If one could not address fellow students in class then how can this person read news on TV without constantly shying away from the camera?
Schools should have an information prefect or someone who reads news to other students during assembly time. In fact, fully fledged writing or media clubs should be formed in all schools to help young learners to practice for future media responsibilities such as news gathering, reporting and editing.
Personally, I was lucky to join the writing club of my secondary school where I served as the Chief Editor. It is this experience that helped me to become the writer that I am today.
My prayer is that a similar opportunity is accorded to more children at an early age. I must commend The New Times for offering some school children an opportunity to contribute stories to its pages.
Schools should regularly buy newspapers and let children read them. Parents should do the same at home. In this way, an interest in news will be nurtured so that in the future these students are regular consumers of newspapers and magazines. We need to sow seeds of media development in our school system. This bottom-up approach is the key to a successful media in Rwanda.