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The Solutions Journalism Network’s Africa Initiative has announced its inaugural set of 10 Fellows who will be working on solutions journalism-focused projects across Kenya and Nigeria.
The Africa Initiative Manager of Solutions Journalism Network (SJN), Ruona Meyer who announced the winners of the grants in a statement said the 10 Fellows will pioneer a community of content creators and platforms that enhance solutions journalism for Africa, by Africans.
“Running until November, the cohort comprises journalism lecturers, artists, as well as veteran and investigative reporters who will be delivering their projects in various African languages and in formats including digital theatre, educational curriculum and investigative radio”, Ruona said.
The Fellowship falls under the Solution Journalism Network’s Africa Initiative, in which 60 newsrooms and 30 Fellows across Nigeria and Kenya will receive training and funding, over a three-year period.
The Solutions Journalism Network is a non-profit organisation with a presence across 18 countries, and over 500 newsrooms.
The five Solutions Journalism Africa Fellows from Nigeria are journalists Zainab Sanni, who will be setting up a solutions journalism investigative radio desk at Agdigbo 88.7FM, Seun Durojaiye, who will pioneer solutions journalism training in Nigeria’s official languages, Lekan Otufodunrin who will build and run the Solutions Journalism West Africa Hub; Abdulkareem Mojeed of Premium Times newspaper who will be reporting on Climate Change Solutions for Agriculture and Jamiu Folarin, a lecturer at Crescent University, Abeokuta, whose curriculum development project is Mainstreaming Solutions Journalism in Ogun state.
The five Kenya-based Solutions Journalism Africa Fellows are journalists Edith Magak, who is working with people living with disabilities to showcase community-based solutions; Christopher Omondi, who will work on a series of radio reports on how motorcycle riders are curing the spread of COVID-19; Angela Oketch’s project will cover the solutions HIV-positive families have come up with to suppress the virus; Brian Malika will train young people under 24 to report on climate change solutions in rural communities and filmmaker Rey Bulambo, whose project uses digital theatre to highlight the solutions created by community members living in a camp for displaced persons.
In his special message to the fellows during the kick-off session on WhatsApp, SJN Co-Founder David Bornstein recalled that SJN started eight years ago “with the conviction that the news was telling too many stories that were causing people to feel powerless, out of control, depressed, fatalistic and scared, and that rigorous reporting – not fluffy reporting, but rigorous reporting that really looks at what people are trying to do to solve problems, (whether or not they are successful), and what we can learn from their efforts would be the single most important balance that we could bring to information in the world.”
He added that SJN which is a community of journalists that now spans many parts of the world are working together to transform journalism and “do reporting that looks not just at what is wrong with the world, what the problems are, but what the emerging ideas and options are, to build a better world and better communities.”
While welcoming the pioneer Fellows to the network, David who is a renowned New York Times journalist charged the Fellows to integrate themselves into SJN to build a news ecosystem that will “move us out of the direction of fear and more in the direction of hope; credible hope, or ‘hope with teeth,’ is how we put it.”
As a way of further supporting their solutions journalism-focused projects, Director of Journalism School partnerships, Solutions Journalism Network, Professor Francine Huff, will provide mentorship and supports to two journalism educators who are part of the Fellowship – Jamiu and Lekan.
Francine promised to share resources, tools and allow them to use the SJN curriculum builder that will help them work on courses, figure out lesson plans and to put together Syllabi.
Jamiu Folarin teaches Mass Communication at Crescent University, Abeokuta, Ogun State in South West Nigeria, where he is a students’ favourite. Jamiu is a doctoral candidate at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye. A freelance journalist with over ten years’ experience, his project will pioneer formal uptake of solutions journalism by educators, students, and reporters. His goal is “Mainstreaming Solutions Journalism in Ogun State.”
The Nigeria Health Watch which is the implementing partner of the Solutions Journalism Africa Initiative in Nigeria will also be providing supports to the five fellows from Nigeria.
In their separate speeches during the onboarding of the fellows, the programme managers, Beti Baiye and Chibuike Alagbaso promised to provide mentorship and other form of supports that will bring to fruition the impactful execution of the solutions journalism-focused projects.
Programme manager Nigeria Health Watch, Beti Baiye
While Beti encourages the fellows to allow their projects impact communities in Nigeria especially in Agriculture and reviving indigenous languages through localising Solutions Journalism, Chibuike said the rigorous process that witnessed five fellows from Nigeria out of 150 applicants paid off with the emergence of outstanding individuals and projects.
In Kenya, Science Africa which is the implementing Partner of the SJN noted that efforts to spread solutions journalism in Kenya have been ongoing for over three years, calling on the Fellows to join the team in “helping entrench solutions journalism at least in Kenya, but at most across the continent.”
While welcoming the Fellows, Science Africa Founder and Managing Editor Otula Owuor said the Fellows encouraged the Fellows to be committed to the solutions journalism projects.
“We at Science Africa are more than willing to work with you, very closely, as you try to realise your objectives. We can only hope that after the three months we will continue to work together, as you build the Sojo approach in the newsrooms in Africa,” Daniel Otunge, Project Lead at the Nairobi-based science and communication consultancy firm told the Fellows.
Daniel Otunge, Project Lead, Science Africa