The department of Journalism and Communication at Makerere University is in the final stages of splitting its lone degree programme into two.
The current four-year bachelor of Journalism and Communication degree will be split into Bachelor of Journalism and Multimedia Studies and Bachelor of Public Relations and Strategic Communication, with each having an accompanying master’s programme.
On Friday, April 7, a group of scholars, senior media personalities and public relations managers met at the university for a validation workshop where they gave their views on the proposed curriculum. While opening the workshop, Dr William Tayeebwa said it has been long since they reviewed the programme.
“For 20 years, we have been running one programme, although in 2004 we started the master’s programme. The industry has continued to grow so much that it became incumbent upon us to revise the programme to respond to the needs of the industry,” he said.
Tayeebwa added that even the National Council for Higher Education demands that universities review their curricular on a regular basis so as to suit the changing dynamics. Tayeebwa added that the department of Mass Communication, as it was then called, has grown so much that it needs to become a school.
“We can’t become a school without programmes. Everyone is excited that we are segregating these important disciplines as stand-alone programmes,” he said.
Tayeebwa revealed that they have the capacity to run the programmes as more than half of their staff are about to complete their PhD degrees.
Prof Edward Kirumira, the principal of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, who represented vice chancellor Prof John Ddumba-Ssentamu, thanked media practitioners and public relations mangers for accepting to be part of the team that is reviewing the curriculum.
“The best person to speak about what you want is somebody who is not you; that makes a much more powerful justification than you,” he said.
Kirumira however, disagreed with Dr Tayeebwa’s suggestion that the change in curriculum should be motivated by the desire to respond to the industry’s demands.
“It should be an engagement-conversation-rather than responding to the needs of the industry. The industry should see this as a partnership rather than a response to their needs because when we go that way, we will be accused of [trailing] the marketplace,” he said.
Kirumira added that the new curriculum should also provide for guest lecturers who are practitioners, rather than leaving it to the discretion of individual lecturers to invite guests.
“Since they are coming from the industry, they will not ask for money. What they are looking at is that they have appointments as guest lecturers at Makerere University; surely they are going to use that to get money from elsewhere,” he said.
Kirumira, who is eyeing the post of vice chancellor when the tenure of the current holder, Ddumba-Ssentamu, runs out in August, also advised the department to allow students choose which languages they want to study at the university. In the proposed curriculum, French, Luganda and Runyakitara are some of the languages that students will choose from.
“I would rather that you have European and African languages so that students choose whatever language they want because these languages are already offered elsewhere in the university,” Kirumira said.
He also urged the department to utilize more of the local case studies in its references because students can easily identify with them. Some of the media personalities and public relations mangers who attended were James Tumusiime, managing director of The Observer newspaper; Francis Kagolo, an editor at New Vision; and Dennis Jjuuko.
Others included George William Lugalambi, the former head of mass communication department at Makerere; Helen Kaweesa, Senior Public Relations manager, parliament of Uganda; Christine Alupo, the Bank of Uganda communication manager, and former BBS journalist Kasim Kayiira.
NEW MULTIMEDIA LAB
Meanwhile, the Norwegian Agency for International Development (NORAD) has donated a multimedia computer lab worth $69,000 (Shs 245 million) to the department of Journalism and Communication.
The state-of-the-art lab has 32 computers, 10 Canon still cameras, 10 audio recorders, 10 video recorders, DVD players, Epson projectors and projection screen, laptops and TV screens, among others.
Speaking at the launch of the lab, Tayeebwa thanked the Norwegian government for the gesture and assured them that the lab will be used to improve the crop of journalists that the university produces.
Jeane de Silva, who represented NORAD, said her government will continue to offer such support through the Norwegian programme for Capacity Building in Higher Education and Research for Development project.
“Higher education is a priority for the government of Norway and we consider Makerere University as a partner and our collaboration is based on friendship,” Silva said. “It’s important to have up-to-date equipment and we will continue to give support to Makerere,”