Thursday, 25 June 2009 12:55 AM

Media School in Solomon Islands

Dear Editor,

Allow me to comment briefly on the announcement of this important facility. At the outset I must congratulate those whose efforts have realized this development.

So congratulations all. As someone who has worked a good part of three decades in the media industry, locally, regionally and internationally, I wish to make one or two observations.

Firstly, it is my sincere hope that the new project avoids the maladies that contributed to the failure of a similar one, funded by AusAID but never got off the ground at SICHE in 2007.

At the heart of the problem it would seem was the selection of the wrong people to be trained as trainers. They were to carry on after the consultant had left with no continuing funding support.

Instead, it was falsely assumed that the media industry would pay for the program.

Which brings me to my second point. The size of the media industry in Solomon Islands is so small, one wonders how on earth the new SICHE program would be supported to continue, if at all and for how long.

I am aware of the support given by the Prime Minister for the program. Prime Minister Derek Sikua must be congratulated for this.

But how will funding from 15 students that the government intends to sponsor each year fund a fulltime lecturer?

In the initial program, I recalled having been approached to see if I could do a part-time tutoring for the program, two hours a week for $50 an hour. Try offering such a rate to any of the overseas consultant to gauge their reaction. I could almost vouch for it that every single word uttered would four-letter words!

How on earth will anyone survive on that, let alone be attracted to teach the course? Even kanaks would not last a day!

Finally, I am still trying to be clear in my own mind on the rationale for the school.

Given that journalism is a universal profession, why does Solomon Islands need one?

The Pacific is already teeming with journalism schools. In PNG, for example, there are two journalism schools offering Diploma and Degree programs.

Fiji is the same where the USP runs a degree program in journalism. I am given to understand that Samoa and Tonga also have their own training program similar to the one now being established in Honiara.

It's also my understanding that Vanuatu would be next to receive its own journalism school. What a waste!

Some times one wonders why donors don't get their acts together and support one regional institution where students interested in journalism can take up the course in one single institution?

One of the reasons for attending journalism programs away from home is the opportunity for exposure, interaction and exchange of ideas with students from other countries.

If there is a motive for establishing these mini journalism programs in each of the pacific islands, it would be to "box" students up in their thinking, articulation and approach to issues. A pity really.

Finally, as everyone knows an MOU is merely an administrative mechanism.

It cannot be enforced.

What happens in the all likely event a new government after 2010 does not recognize the MOU between MASI and SICHE?

I suppose we'll summon another foreign consultant to recycle the proposal and sell it on secondhand price to SIG?

Alfred

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter/article are those of Alfred Sasako and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.

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