A four-year programme to bring skills in the Sudan media to international levels has taken one Thomson trainer away from the capital, Khartoum.
Radio journalist, Derek Ivens, tells how he travelled to Sinja and El-Obeid – either side of the Nile – to run programmes “training the trainers” to provide lasting impact.
Sinja is a hot and dusty town, where wealth is measured in cattle but where skills in media have suddenly taken on a new value.
Inside the training room, most of the class are getting the first formal training of their careers, led by Sudanese colleagues.
I spent weeks helping Entisar Omer and Abdelwhab Salih with the many skills needed to teach a style of journalism new to Sudan. Now they are in charge of designing and delivering the course.
They are persuading the participants to widen the news agenda beyond press releases from officials. They are learning how to make interactive radio which actually gives listeners a voice.
The key lessons are that impartiality and accuracy are “red lines” for professional journalists.
If you pick out people with a passion to help others, and give them the tools, they can make a real difference.
Fast forward a week to El-Obeid, a major city in North Kordofan. Now Entisar has been joined by Yasir Bashir, the highly experienced and respected director of youth and sports programmes at Radio Sudan.
They have put some surprises into the training sessions – such as a game in which people “describe” events and landscapes through sound only – showing listeners what is happening in their country without pictures or words. It is a key radio skill, as is the ability to seek out and interrogate multiple sources of news, which they are practising by role playing.
Entisar, Abdelwhab and Yasir understand the country better than a foreign trainer and can deliver the lessons in Arabic. The trainees are surprised that they are having fun while learning, rather than only listening to lectures.
For once, my job is now to sit and listen – reflecting that if you pick out people with a passion to help others, and give them the tools, they can make a real difference to the media in a troubled country.
A team of trainers from the Thomson Foundation has been partnering with the British Council to carry out an ambitious programme building media capacity in Sudan. It is funded through the British embassy in Khartoum.