THE US Embassy has injected M750 000 to sponsor the implementation of a bachelor’s degree programme in journalism at the University of Lesotho (NUL).
The journalism degree will be offered at the NUL’s Maseru campus, the Institute of Extra-Mural Studies (IEMS) in the next academic year.
The degree will be an upgrade from the three-year Mass Communication Diploma that the university has been offering at IEMS.
The US Ambassador to Lesotho, Rebecca Gonzales, recently said the US Embassy would also equip the programme with state-of-the art media resource lab to ensure adequate training. Ms Gonzales said the embassy would also help the university build a viable curriculum.
“Through a grant of more than M750 000, we will equip this programme with a state-of-the art media resource lab to ensure that journalism students at NUL have the practical training needed to succeed in today’s media environment,” Ms Gonzales said.
“Furthermore, we are walking side-by-side with the team from IEMS and the Faculty of Humanities as they endeavor to create a comprehensive degree programme and build a curriculum that fully utilises these technical resources. As is our usual practice, we are not interested merely in providing equipment. The US is focused on building capacity and creating opportunity for young Basotho. We are committed to partnering with Basotho at all levels to achieve the best, most sustainable outcomes.”
Ms Gonzales said the programme will go a long way in enhancing freedom of expression and freedom of information which are enshrined as a basic human right in African Charter of Human and People’s Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948 and many other such conventions.
“In my own country, it is a prominent component of the Bill of Rights, which forms part of our Constitution. The US values freedom of the press as a key component of democratic governance. By fostering a free press, citizens are more informed, active and engaged in political decision-making and can better hold their governments accountable and enhance our shared principles of a functional and democratic society.
“Journalists and media actors dedicate their lives, often at great risk, to promote transparency and accountability throughout the world. To do so, we must train good journalists. Every country needs those good journalists; the United States, Lesotho, we all need them,” Ms Gonzales said.
Ms Gonzales said that Basotho needed good journalism now more than ever with the ongoing process of national reforms.
“This is especially true here as the country navigates the ongoing process of reforms. Regardless whether they consume news from the newspaper, the radio, or on their smartphones, Basotho will continue to rely on journalists to investigate and interpret the stories and issues that affect their lives.”
Ms Gonzales said the introduction of the degree in journalism was a mile stone since its conception over a year ago.
“More than a year ago, the US Embassy stepped back to look at the work we do to support press freedom and to provide journalism training through our various public diplomacy exchanges and trainings. We spoke with many of you at the time about what was needed to elevate the role of journalists and the media in Lesotho. Together we determined that Lesotho needed a degree program in Journalism. We are very pleased that the National University of Lesotho saw fit to make this shared vision into reality.
“We can all agree that up and coming journalists need proper training and a solid foundation in ethical journalism. On the job training when they enter the workforce is important but they need to emerge from school with the critical thinking skills to research, investigate, analyse and distill information. That way, whatever medium they choose to work in, they are advancing those ideals of transparency, accountability and journalistic integrity,” Ms Gonzales said.