President, Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals of Nigeria (ACSPN), Prof. Umaru Pate, has said a new communication curriculum that will revolutionalise the media space is underway.
Speaking at the maiden edition of a virtual programme, AskMe! Mentorship Series organised by ACSPN and International Press Centre (IPC), he said the curriculum would bridge the gap between newsroom and classroom.
Pate, who is also the Vice-Chancellor, Federal University of Kashere, Gombe State, said the curriculum is a combination of various experiences, ideas and examples from different parts of the world.
“It may interest you to know that United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is fully involved in the process of the curriculum. We also got the experiences of scholars outside Nigeria. The curriculum is up to date and captured contemporary evolving realities in the communication sector,” he said.
Some specific areas captured in the curriculum include funding, content, quality of professionalism in the media business, how professionals could respond to emerging technology, particularly, the Internet in relation to conventional media.
He said by the first week of February, there would be a conference at Bayero University, Kano, where professionals and stakeholders would analyse the curriculum.
The conference, he revealed, is in two parts: Media funding in Nigeria, where practitioners would look at the current framework or model.
Speakers like the CEO of Channels TV, John Momoh and Chairman of the Media Trust Limited, Mallam Kabiru Yusuf, would be invited to share ideas, Pate revealed.
He said the participants would also look at the survivability of the media, whether online or offline.
According to him, “sustainability is very important and as we always say, editorial independence is a function of economic independence.”
The academic also said they would take a final look at the curriculum meticulously before it is launched by the Vice President.
Expressing optimism, Pate assured, “we hope that the new curriculum would revolutionalise the study of communication in this country, give a new perspective, offer new courses and give scholars more opportunities to go into dynamics of communication, not only in Nigeria but globally. Like we always say, the communication sector is the most dynamic and our students would be fully prepared to respond to the challenges.”
The media scholar said in the curriculum, the period for an internship would not only be extended but a good connection established between the newsroom and classroom.
He observed that currently, the newsroom is ahead because of the technologies available in many of the newsrooms.
While stressing that the curriculum content has been drastically worked on to capture emerging realities in the field, especially from the undergraduate to postgraduate level, the younger ones would have more opportunities to have practical knowledge of what is happening in the industry.
According to him, communication is highly dynamic and any journalist, who refuses to admit the changing realities, is living in denial.
With the current changes in the communication sector, Pate said the training of mass communication is no longer going to be like it used to be.
The academic also stressed the need for lecturers to be more open and relate effectively with those in the media and civil society.
He further suggested that lecturers must be willing to change their orientation and teaching method so that they could train students, who are relevant to their society.
The Federal University of Kashere Vice-Chancellor added that they must be willing to adjust their thinking, orientation and reading habit so that they would go in line with what is now obtained, globally.
Asked how communication could be used to solve the nation’s problems, Pate responded that communication couldn’t solve all Nigerians problems but “we are making our own contributions from the perspective of communicators. If, for instance, a newspaper writes an editorial and the government did not listen, then what would you do? There are limits. We can talk, advocate, name and shame but in a situation where those who should listen fail to listen, then what do we do? In the universities, our students do a lot of research addressing Nigeria’s issues but they are not given any consideration.”
He, however, said despite challenges, “we are not going to keep quiet. We’ll continue to engage in research, advocate, in whatever is relevant for Nigeria’s interest. One day, somebody somewhere would listen.”
On the possibility of adopting Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Nigeria’s media space, he said it is feasible, depending on the availability of resources or investment and if media proprietors are willing to invest in technology. He said the nation does not manufacture the technology but said money is needed to bring the technology. However, he disclosed that there are other things to look at such as other supporting frameworks like electricity, security and others.
When the question on professionalism in the broadcast industry was asked, he stressed the need for NBC to ensure standardisation, professionalism and quality of content.
In the absence of a communication policy in the country, Pate told The Guardian that the policy “is expected to give general direction to the communication sector in the country but with or without the policy, National Universities Commission (NUC) can go ahead to develop the curriculum for university. There is a communication policy draft that is yet to be implemented.”
He said, “NUC worked under the Ministry of Education and the National Education Policy, which empowers it to develop new curriculum for universities. We also worked with the Ministry of Information and other parastatals under the information sector, so, there is a synergy among all of us.”
According to him, “the new curriculum is a product of the unbundling. It means mass communication has been unbundled to come out with a new curriculum. We have eight new programmes instead of one that we used to have. The eight new programmes are Journalism, Broadcasting, Public Relations, Advertising, Development Communication, Film and Multimedia Studies, Strategic Communication, Information and Media Studies.
“We are in the finalisation stage. The Federal Government in March may launch it and universities would now start implementing them. In February, we are going to discuss funding and use the opportunity to discuss the new curriculum with our Heads of Departments.”
First female professor of Mass communication, Chinyere Stella Okunna, who currently lectures at the Department of Mass Communication, Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, Anambra State, asked whether it would be possible to stop those who do not have a background in communication to practice in the media.
She said, “no matter how good you are in English; you can’t go to a law court and start arguing like a lawyer.”
Responding, Pate said the Internet has made it almost impossible to professionalise the industry. He disclosed that the law states that you can’t practice journalism except you have a minimum diploma, but enforceability is extremely difficult.
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As a way out, he said, “what could be done is to effectively improve the capacity of practitioners not to encourage quackery.”
Executive Director IPC, Lanre Arogundade, spoke on the possibility of how Nigeria Institute of Journalism (NIJ) could be remodeled as a professional institute. Arogundade doesn’t believe that NIJ should be running diploma programmes.
Arogundade added that the mentorship webinar was organised to give young mass communicators and journalists the necessary platform to clarify professional concerns and provide an opportunity to address issues or problems associated with the conduct of research.
On her part, a professor at the Caleb University Lagos, Oluyinka Esan, said scholars must have the passion and do more research. She said they needed to have a compass — that is, what is the motivation for what they are doing.
Conclusively, Pate said mentorship is extremely important for senior colleagues to realise that they have to carry the junior colleagues along and open up opportunities for them. He, however, identified the challenge of arrogance, saying that some young scholars feel they know it all. He said, “when you go to our mass communication departments you see rivalries that are uncalled for.”
Some other participants that joined the conversation include, Prof. Ralph Akinfeleye, General Secretary ACSPN, Prof. Nosa Owens-Ibie; among others.