Training journalists of the future

Ill-equipped departments, obsolete syllabus and inexperienced faculty worries journalism students

TEACHING JOURNALISM

IMRAN MUZAFFAR

Um Roommana Sulaiman, 23, wants to become a successful television broadcaster like Mishal Husain of the BBC. A 4th semester student of journalism at the Islamic University of Science and Technology Awantipora, she has chosen her subject by choice.  Inspired by few female working journalists around the world who have covered conflicts in Bosnia, Palestine, Chechnya and elsewhere, Roommana wants to represent Kashmir at the global level. She aspires to tell stories of people who have been victims of a disturbing status quo.
Like Um Roommana, more than a hundred graduates from journalism schools in Kashmir have similar dreams and aspirations. The discipline at the postgraduate level is taught at Kashmir University, Islamic University of Science and Technology and Central University of Kashmir, while at bachelors level Government Degree College Baramulla and Government Women College Srinagar offers the course.
Every year thousands of students apply for journalism courses at the bachelors and postgraduate level in Kashmir. The institutions make it mandatory for everyone to go through an entrance examination – an exercise many believe is ‘futile’ given the entrance papers that seek theoretical knowledge. The students say they feel disappointed by the infrastructure in place and the pedagogy of teaching in the journalism schools.
A graduate from Islamic University of Sciences and Technology (IUST) says the Department of Journalism lacks infrastructure to impart professional training. “I owe everything to teachers who taught me at the department, although there is less infrastructure and availability of other equipments,” says Umer Wani. “But there is a serious need to equip the department with latest infrastructure for better training.” He says the problem is that the University does not care about the department. “The IUST is more about politics now,” he alleges.
Five years down the line, not many students would apply for journalism courses. But today a whole lot of enthusiastic students are pursuing journalism courses in various universities. Some students say the challenges before them are many, while others question the functioning of the institutions who impart journalism training. “The biggest challenge for journalism in Kashmir is that nobody unfortunately knows what it is actually,” says Ishtiyak Ahmad Malik, a student of Media Education Research Centre, University of Kashmir. “The first and the foremost loophole is the way journalism is taught here. The teachers unfortunately don’t know the fundamentals, the basics of the profession. Teachers take classes but we don’t learn journalism at least,” he says.
Ishtiyak aspires to become a broadcast journalist, but he says the way journalism is taught has created within him a ‘conflict’ about journalism. “We have nothing in place. The department’s equipment is defunct,” says another third semester student of MERC, wishing not to be identified. “There is no exposure to the fast changing news culture,” he says.  “The syllabus we are taught at the department is completely obsolete and the way we are trained, I don’t think we can compete at the national level in any medium. We badly need a permanent HoD who is abreast of what is happening in the field outside,” he says.
“Our department is headed by a lecturer of Botany Department. You can yourself imagine the rest,” says a 2nd year student of Mass communication at Baramulla Degree College.
A graduate of Convergent Journalism from Baramulla Degree College, who works with NDTV Delhi, says journalism can’t be taught in classrooms. Students, he says, need practical training to familiarise themselves with the field. “Over the past two years we have seen students coming up in huge number into journalism. Journalism is nothing but storytelling with facts. But journalism is not taught in the classrooms, it’s learned in the field,” says Owais Ashraf. “Internship programs are must for students of journalism as they get to know the nuances of the medium and realise what they are capable of,” he says.
The students enrolled in the Journalism Department of Central University of Kashmir say it is yet to emerge as an institution of journalism training. “Teachers give their best, but journalism training is connected with infrastructure and a permanent campus which we lack here,” says a student of Convergent Journalism, wishing not to be identified.
Yusuf Jameel, a noted Kashmir-based journalist who works with The Deccan Chronicle, says ‘sky is the limit’ for journalism graduates. “No matter how many graduates come out every year, I believe what is needed is dedication and integrity in the field,” he says.
In-charge Head Department of Convergent Journalism Central University Shahnaz Bashir says the department has procured best of the equipment and is striving hard to give better academic and professional training to the students. However, he admits that issues like permanent campus and bureaucratic-administration are challenges to the department’s growth. “Since ours is a professional course, we are partly dependent on equipment which we have enough in comparison to even Kashmir University’s Media department,” he says. “Despite having a temporary campus, we have started to function the way a journalism department should. We have acquired equipment which MERC could not even get in 27 years,” he says. “The most important challenge is that of administration. Except Registrar and Vice Chancellor, the administration functions like a bureaucracy. The only people who support the department are Registrar and Vice Chancellor,” says Shahnaz. “Our department has enough of equipments. What is most needed is an academic and professional environment and not a bureaucratic environment,” he adds.       
Noting there is always scope of improvement, the In-charge Head, Department of Journalism IUST, Monisa Qadri says the department has been doing its best to impart professional training to the students. “The department has started functioning in 2008 and we are trying to building up an ideal environment,” she says. “Yes indeed the department lacks equipments and infrastructure compared to other journalism institutions but the fact is that we are improvising to the best of our capability here. We are doing need-based work and ensure students are benefitted despite having less equipments,” says the In-charge HoD. She says the faculty tries its best to impart academic and professional training to students. “We have a radio station which was introduced in cooperation with Panos South Asia. We conduct workshops for students at other institutions from time to time,” she adds.
Despite repeated attempts for three consecutive days, officials of Media Education Research Center, Kashmir University and Media Department of Government Degree Baramulla could not be contacted for their comments.

Lastupdate on : Sun, 3 Feb 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 3 Feb 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 4 Feb 2013 00:00:00 IST




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