“The years immediately ahead will be a time of breath-taking change for Africa, and for the field of media,” said Mawlana Hazar Imam in his speech marking the occasion. “I believe that Africa can emerge from this transformation as the home of some of the most capable, innovative, constructive and respected media enterprises in the world.”
“Helping to advance that vision is what our new Media and Communications School is all about,” he said.
Innovations in communication technology are increasingly contributing to advances in the development of East Africa. The establishment of the new Graduate School recognises a need for new kinds of media professionals, entrepreneurs and expertise in order to ensure a vibrant, independent, and plural media sector in the region.
The Graduate School will be built on the shoulders of the Aga Khan University and the Nation Media Group, institutions of the Aga Khan Development Network that lend valuable experience “in the field of education and the disciplines of the media,” noted Hazar Imam. However, the school will venture farther afield and distinguish itself in new ways.
Emphasising new technologies, the Graduate School will employ state-of-the-art equipment and innovative ways of teaching, so that its graduates will be comfortable with the media platforms today and “help develop the media platforms of tomorrow.”
But the journalist's obligation to present the story correctly will not be sacrificed at the altar of technology: “Our core concern must always be the ability of our students to think critically and creatively, to pursue the truth ethically and responsibly, and to articulate ideas clearly and vividly,” said the Imam.
The new school will also seek to cultivate in students an indigenous journalistic voice that is not beholden to Western perspectives, but that reflects local realities and which can project these perspectives globally.
“One of the inheritances of the African colonial period was an absence of indigenous, independent media enterprises – and, thus, of effective media entrepreneurs,” noted Hazar Imam. “A half century later, healthy, African media companies are no longer such a rarity, but they are still in short supply.”
Mawlana Hazar Imam said that the school will therefore not restrict itself to producing writers, editors and artists that are solely producers of content, but will also reach into the field of media management. It will prepare students to be able to address the economic dimension of media ventures sustainably and responsibly.
Drawing on other faculties of the Aga Khan University, the new Graduate School will encourage students to deepen their knowledge in other fields of study, including health, economics, political science, religion, and environmental studies. The school will also provide opportunities for professional and continuing education, adapting to the changing needs of those in the media industry.
The establishment of the Graduate School of Media and Communications was first announced by Mawlana Hazar Imam during the Pan African Media Conference in March 2010. Starting with its Nairobi campus, the Graduate School will aim to foster a critical mass of diverse media leaders, enterprises and institutions and will be dedicated to advancing the highest standards of competence, ethics, professionalism and social responsibility.
The design of the Graduate School's state-of-the-art facilities is underway, with the launch of academic programmes planned for 2014. The Nairobi campus offers ease of access to a range of amenities and public transportation routes, and security for students, faculty and visitors.
“Above all else, when people think in years to come about the Aga Khan University's Graduate School of Media and Communications, I would like them to think of its dedication to uncompromising quality,” emphasised Mawlana Hazar Imam.