More than 200 students at Makerere University are set to benefit from a new SciDev.Net training course called Script aimed at nurturing the science journalists of tomorrow and addressing the lack of high-quality science reporting in Africa.
The Scrip training course and networking programme, which is funded by Robert Bosch- Stiftung and was launched at the Next Einstein Forum in Kigali, Rwanda early this year, will be taught to students within the Ugandan university’s Department of Journalism and Communication in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Makerere University .
The agreement with SciDev.Net – the world’s leading source of reliable and authoritative news, views and analysis about science and technology for global development – will see students receiving training on a number of Script science communication topics, including ‘how to simplify science without compromising its meaning’ and ‘how to cover scientific controversies’.
Charles Wendo, Script’s training coordinator and a past science editor at Uganda’s New Vision newspaper, said, “We’re delighted that Makerere University is now utilising Script as part of its curriculum to teach and nurture the science journalists of tomorrow. Effective science communication is essential if the general public and policymakers are to make informed decisions on the issues facing their communities and regions.
He said that they are hopeful the course will ultimately lead to more journalists writing an increasing number of articles about science in order to increase the application of science in public life and in the development of government policy.
An analysis published by SciDev.Net in 2013 identified that the need for new training was a key issue for journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and the North Africa region. Newspapers in Sub-Saharan Africa operate on tight budgets and few have the capacity to appoint a dedicated science reporter, meaning generalists are often called on to cover complex science stories.
It is hoped that Script will help bridge the gap for new journalists in Uganda as well as Kenya and Nigeria where the programme is also operating.
“It is an amazing opportunity for Makerere to work on the project and for university students at various levels to acquire skills in reporting science. The University is committed to mainstreaming the Script project courses in the current curriculum as well as the reviewed one envisaged to be launched in the 2019/2020 academic year. As a matter of fact, a new independent master’s level course on ‘science communication’ has been developed in the reviewed curriculum,” sai Dr William Tayeebwa, head of the Department of Journalism and Communication at Makerere University.
He said that through a mentorship scheme, the Department should also be working with several science journalists and communicators to tutor and guide upcoming science journalism and communication graduates.
Students at Makerere University following an online Script science journalism and communication course will receive a certificate and will also potentially have the opportunity to pitch their work to a number of mainstream media outlets that are also partnering with the Script project.
Script is being developed in partnership with Radio Nigeria, The Conversation Africa and The Nation Media Group in Kenya, with a view to it being rolled out across other African countries in due course.