Journalism education has become a focus of research and discussion in recent years. Contemporary work on the subject centres on issues concerning the state of training at various colleges, schools and universities around the world. The debate on journalism education mainly critiques the general training; paying attention to the theory in relation to practice notion which scholars view as the greatest challenge facing journalism educators across the globe. Many institutions face criticism from media industry players who often complain that graduates of journalism schools lack hands-on practical skills which are a necessity in journalism practice.
Makerere, the oldest and most prestigious university in Uganda has been training journalists through the Mass Communication programme since the 1980s. However, critics say the training currently offered is lacking in quality. The programme’s curriculum at the time of this study was deemed old fashioned because it does not address the current trends in journalism and the media in general. It is from this background that I took an evaluative study of the Mass Communication programme to gauge its quality and relevance to journalism practice.
Right from admission of students to the programme, to the actual teaching and other related details, I set out to critically study the programme and the department and bring to light the state of journalism education at Makerere University (MAK).
Basing on information gathered through interviews, focus group discussions, document analysis and observation; the study revealed that MAK struggles to meet the benchmarks of teaching journalism at undergraduate level as outlined by the World Journalism Education Council (WJEC) as well as United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The university’s efforts are hampered by limited human, technical and financial resources necessary for decent training. A comparison of the MAK journalism programme with a similar programme offered at Oslo University College (OUC) in Norway indicated that resources play a vital role in the effective training of journalists. I also noted that most challenges faced at the department may be overcome with proper management, planning, coordination and creativity on the part of the department and the university as a whole. But against all odds, the department has for more than 20 years trained outstanding journalists in Uganda. Its most recent achievement was when it was recognised as UNESCO’s potential centre of excellence.