The Rwanda Initiative
The Rwanda Initiative – www.RwandaInitiative.ca – is a partnership between Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication and its counterpart at the National University of Rwanda. Since it was established in 2006 by Carleton journalism professor Allan Thompson, the project has sent more than 150 Canadians to Rwanda to teach, work as interns or contribute to the development of journalism curricula and application of education technology.
The crux of the Rwanda Initiative model is to try to avoid expensive, one-off workshops in favour of more sustainable support to journalism education institutions so that these institutions – not outside consultants – can play a longterm role in building local media capacity. This can happen through conventional journalism education for university students or through continuing education offered to working journalists through night schools or professional training centres.
The Rwanda Initiative project has two core activities, a capacity-building program that sends journalism teachers, curriculum and education technology experts to Rwanda (both to the National University of Rwanda in Butare and to the Great Lakes Media Centre in Kigali) and an internship program that sends Canadian journalism students to Rwanda to work as interns in news organizations. The Rwanda Initiative project also brings Rwandan journalists to Canada to study journalism at Carleton University or take part in short-term media internships with Canadian news organizations.
In 2009, the Rwanda Initiative entered a new phase when it joined in a partnership with Washington based International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), which had in turn entered into a two-year agreement with USAID to implement the Rwanda MCC Threshold Media Strengthening Project. The Rwanda Initiative continues to contribute to the IREX-led project through the visiting lecturer program at the National University and the Great Lakes Media Centre and by expanding the collaboration to include a new focus on program and curriculum review and intensive teacher development exercises to prepare more Rwanda journalists to take on teaching roles.
For example, Carleton University’s Educational Development Centre (EDC) has graduated 22 Rwandan journalists and journalism educators from its prestigious Certificate in University Teaching, helping to build the capacity of the National University of Rwanda. And EDC experts from Carleton have also worked one-on-one with NUR professors in professional development exercises.
The EDC’s one-week teaching certificate program was first delivered in Kigali in February, 2010, to a dozen working journalists in Rwanda who had expressed an interest in teaching. Participants explored conceptions of teaching practice, learned basic lesson planning and course delivery methods, and developed a framework for student success – focusing specifically on the challenges of teaching journalism in the Rwandan context. Several graduates of the program have had the chance to apply what they learned in the classroom at NUR or the Great Lakes Media Center. The program was delivered by Dr. Carol Miles (Director, Learning Technologies and Teaching Support), Everett Igobwa from the Educational Development Centre at Carleton, and Dr. Curtis Lee (Manager of Educational Assessment) from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.
A second teaching certificate program was delivered in February, 2011, this one specially customized for 10 professors at NUR with considerable experience in teaching journalism in Rwanda. A variety of teaching concepts were explored, from the development of sound learning objectives to the valid and reliable assessment of students. Carol Miles made her second trip to Rwanda to lead this program, along with Patrick Lyons and Ryan Kuhne from EDC.
The EDC also supported NUR’s efforts to adopt new educational technology. Patrick Lyons led an NUR faculty retreat focused on learning technology in November, 2010 and Ryan Kuhne ran a number of group and individual consultations on applying learning technologies in the classroom in March 2011.
The ultimate goal is to build the capacity of the National University of Rwanda’s journalism school so that it can become a centre of excellence and the hub of journalism education, media training and professional development for journalists in Rwanda.