Jimma University in Ethiopia has expanded its College of Social Sciences and Humanities in September 2017 with a Bachelor’s in Media Studies and a Master’s in Print and Online Journalism under the Journalism Education in Ethiopia: Building Capacity and Improving Professionalism project. The new programs offer prospective journalism students access to unique, tailor-made curricula to help them become professional journalists.

The foundation of a well-functioning media landscape is a strong education based on solid practical experience coupled with theoretical foundation. Innovation, localization and hands-on experience are central to the new BA and MA programs. As a result of the new programs, Jimma University has opened its first journalism department where the curricula will be housed. This will complement the already existing MA in Broadcast Journalism designed by the university. 

Background

Journalism education in Ethiopia is challenged with lack of qualified instructors and access to proper equipment and infrastructure. Professors are rarely trained on teaching methods and are typically resort to a lecture based style, with little engagement between students. Journalism, however is one of the many studies that cannot be properly learned without critical discussions and practical experience. Currently, journalism graduates lack professional standards to practice proper journalism in the real world.  

Tailor-Made Curricula

The programs have been carefully designed to meet the needs of the socio-political and cultural context in the Ethiopia. Courses have been selected based on the current media trends and needs in the country and to ensure that graduates meet the demands of the job market in the media industry. Practice and ethics are cross-cutting themes in the curricula that are essential to professionalism and high standards in the media. Additionally, courses have been designed to meet international standards while taking into account realities on the ground.

A course on mobile storytelling is included in the BA in Media Studies that will teach students how to use new tools such as the StoryMaker app allowing for self-learning and production outside of the classroom. This helps diminish the need for expensive camera equipment and allows students direct access to quality journalism lessons on their mobile devices. 

Furthermore, journalism students will be paired with Jimma University´s community radio station to put their journalistic skills to work and contribute to the university´s community-oriented philosophy. 

A Collaborative Process

The curricula team consisted of Free Press Unlimited in collaboration with Jimma University journalism professors and an expert from the University of Amsterdam. The BA and MA were developed over the course of one year of discussions and feedback from all parties. The BA in Media Studies was reviewed and approved by the Ethiopian Ministry of Communications and the MA in Print and Online Journalism was approved by Jimma University and critical reviewers from Addis Ababa University´s School of Journalism and Communication. 

Quality Education Leads to Professional Journalists 

Graduates of these journalism programs are expected to be equipped to influence the media landscape by improving the quality of content produced, teaching their peers at newsrooms, becoming media managers and starting new media that are independent, an essential component of true democracy. The Ethiopian media landscape is in desperate need of graduates of this stature. 

In addition to developing journalism curricula, the project trained eight journalism professors from Jimma University on Outcome Based Education (OBE) teaching methods and practical journalism skills. The training was aimed at improving the skills of Jimma University educators to be able to teach the new BA and MA programs to the highest standards possible.

Free Press Unlimited has been working together with the Jimma University since 2008.Together we have worked on setting up the first community radio station in Ethiopia and have since trained volunteers and employees at the station. Free Press Unlimited supports Jimma University´s principals of community-based journalism and believes in the continued advancement of journalism education for a more democratic and well-informed society.

This project was made possible with the support of the Dioraphte Foundation.