Despite the various explanations given for breaking Mass Communication into seven core disciplines by the National Universities Commission, NUC, some Nigerians are yet to understand the reason behind the decision. In a chat with one of Africa’s leading teachers in the field, Prof. Ralph Akinfeleye, the erudite scholar sheds more light on the unbundling and more.
According to Akinfeleye, who recently became the first African to be elected into the prestigious Council of the World Journalism Education Congress, WJEC, for a period of three years, the development was in line with global practices and its advantages are enormous and could change the media landscape in Nigeria.
By Elizabeth Uwandu
CAN you shed more light on the unbundling of Mass Communication?
Well, the first assessment of the unbundling is that it is long overdue. Again, the misconception that Mass Communication is about to be phased out is not true. What we did is to divide Mass Communication into seven component departments which is the current trend worldwide; 76 of us worked on this document for two years before we presented it to the NUC last year.
Among us were professors from the universities, practitioners from the industries and members of the regulatory bodies; representatives of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Advertising Practitioners of Nigeria, APCON, professional associations like Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria, BON; Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria, Press Council; editors of major newspapers and owners of broadcast stations. International representation from UNICEF was with us throughout. In fact, they were the ones that supervised and supported Development Communication Studies.
The implication is that these programmes will now have their School or Department on their own and not be housed under Faculty of Social Sciences; Art or Management Science who do not speak the same language with them. They will now have College, School or Faculty of Communication Studies depending on the school.
Advantages of unbundling Mass Communication
We want to bridge the gap between the town and gown. And the decision is in line with global best practices. We now have a provision where the practitioners from newspapers, radio, and television come to teach in a university. And those of us in the university also will go into the newsroom to see what is happening. For some of these practitioners who do not have Ph.D, they will be employed as our visiting lecturers or fellows like we have in UNILAG.
The reasons for the unbundling are one: To meet the current trend, which entails reducing the workload of our students when they graduate. The current system rushes them to do a little bit of everything and they end up not being specialist in one or two things. Now, all the students will spend the first two years learning the rudimentary of journalism and then go into their specialised courses in the third and fourth year. So, it will be possible for somebody who is offering BSc. in Journalism and Media Studies to be able to know some things about other departments.
We are trying to produce total practitioners and this has been my mission. In my research studies, we found out in the immediate past that the classrooms in Journalism schools were far ahead of the newsroom but in recent times, it has changed drastically, the newsrooms are now far ahead of the classrooms.
When will the new dispensation begin?
No school is under compulsion to start everything at once. However, the process will start this 2020/2021 academic session. The Executive Secretary, NUC gave the review. Every programme will now have compulsory media attachment regardless of the department. And’anyone that is trained in any, out of these seven, will be very proud because they will be trained in-depth in that specialty. In UNILAG, we are starting with the seven because of our peculiarity, human resources and material resources. We already have six fellows who are coming from the industry to teach our students and this is the current trend that is done all over the world.
Without boasting, we are the first to have a campus radio, Radio UNILAG 103.5fm; first to get a TV license , UNILAG Television; and the first university to apply for a grant of $5 million from World Bank. We competed with 19 universities and polytechnics and by the grace of God, I led in the sourcing and we got the grant to get the equipment.
Currently, we boast of more equipment than some of the commercial radio stations. We have over 15 high definition cameras, we have teleprompters, we have OB van and we have red camera which is just two in Nigeria, one in our campus, the other in Nollywood.
The red camera is a camera that can be used for moving objects like movies and the likes .
Advice to universities
Key advice to universities going to start these programs is that their VCs should understand that Mass Communication is capital-intensive and they should advise their people to look outside the university for Foundations that donate equipment.