The School of Journalism at the Univeristy of Nairobi has in recent years appeared to be struggling to keep its reputation as the premier media training institution in Eastern Africa.
There is the matter of growing competition from other universities, which are keen on cashing in on the growing demand for trained media professionals as the industry expands.
Universities are also caught up in the problem of poorly thought-out expansion, mostly motivated by monetary pursuits, which has left the institutions open to criticism over decline in academic standards.
Whereas all universities have increased student enrolment, especially through the so-called parallel programme, and introduced new, apparently market-driven courses, there is little evidence that these developments have been accompanied by investment in the requisite infrastructure and human resources.
But SOJ (which has since become, SOJMC, School of Journalism and Mass Communication) now says it is taking steps to address these critical issues.
The school has just completed a review of the cirriculum of its master's programme in communication studies. The course was introduced in 2000 to replace the well- regarded Post-Graduate Diploma in Mass Communication. The proposed syllabus is yet to be approved by relevant authorities at the university.
Dr. Muiru Ngugi who coordinated the review told ET that UoN requires a review of the curriculum of all courses. But for some unexplained reason, SOJMC has not done so for the MA course since it was introduced.
Dr Ngugi said the review was also done in response to the needs of students and a desire to align the programme to Vision 2030, the government development blueprint aimed at catapulting Kenya to the status of a middle-income nation.
“The MA has been a catch-all course without specialisations,” Ngugi said. “We have now proposed three specialties: public relations, development communication and journalism.” If approved, the new curriculum will ensure students focus on the areas of their professional interest, Ngugi explained. It would also mean smaller classes based on the specialities and therefore more effective learning.
Along with the proposed curriculum changes (whose details Dr Ngugi declined to share, citing university regulations), SOJMC is in the process of expanding its capacity in response to complaints about congestion, teacher shortages and lack of adequate facilities.
At present SOJMC collaborates with Kenya Institute of Mass Communication for broadcast courses, especially the new Bachelor of Broadcast Production. But KIMC itself does not have adequate facilities for its own students.
So SOJMC plans to set up its own media centre at the 15-storey new building that is planned at the UoN main campus.
Meanwhile, Dr Ngugi said, the school has hired three fellows to strengthen its staff capacity and is in the process of recruiting technical personnel in response to the long criticism that SOJMC courses are largely theoretical, with scant attention to practical training in media work. The school also wants to set up media production labs.