PASCH | Article
students from Mother of Apostles Seminary practising with the radio equipment © Victor Birai There is something to be said about traditional education and what it gives children in schools today. If you are familiar with the Kenyan public system of education, you know that more often than not Kenyan kids are encouraged to keep their career dreams within a number of sectors, namely: medicine, accounting, law or engineering. And if venturing out drastically, think of becoming an actuary. It is rare for the less than obvious career paths to be even mentioned. If there is something you enjoy, or a passion outside of this range, then you are forced to do it after work, or as a hobby, or you have to figure out a way to integrate it into your already present job. For example, if you like writing, you should probably become something like a communications professional, which sounds like you actually went to school; heaven forbid you become an actual writer.
Kaaga Girls' students at Tuliza FM for a radio presenting experience and training © Martin Mutwiri While still on writing, and indeed, the industry of journalism and mass communication in Kenya, the earlier the training begins, the better. If you look at the statistics, specifically on air right now, there are not a lot of trained journalists manning shows or radio stations. Some may say this is because there is a lack of professionals; and if that is the case, then this is an excellent chance to find the young people who are actually passionate about being ‘behind the mic’, and doing it in a researched and professional manner. After all, radio is the most listened to media in Kenya: according to The Star newspaper, we have almost two hundred radio stations operating in Kenya, as of 2020, with that number set to increase as the Communications Authority makes it even easier for radio stations to be licensed and registered. It is the fastest growing medium for sharing information in national languages and in vernacular, as well as the one with the widest reach. This includes community radio, commercial radio, and even evolving media such as podcasts. Radio is an essential part of Kenyan everyday life.
This is why programmes like PASCH (Schools: Partners for the Future) are so important in countries that traditionally stifle the arts—regardless of the fact that the arts industries are full of talent and promise. The PASCH programme connects about two thousand schools worldwide, and conducts numerous inspiring projects to the benefit of students studying German and the society. One of these is the LABORADIO project, which aims to give students a unique opportunity to learn about and create their own radio stations, and establish their own international student radio network. By working on their own radio stations and podcasts, students’ competence in the media industry is enhanced, and they get hands-on training to understand what media creation looks like in the digital age.
students from Kaaga Girls at Tuliza FM for hands on training sesssion with the staff © Martin Mutwiri LABORADIO targets PASCH students from all over East Africa. In Kenya, the programme is being supported by local radio stations Tuliza FM (Meru), Sayare FM (Eldoret) and Nation FM (Nairobi). The objective is simple: Sometimes you are good at something, but have no way to do it, or even understand how you can do it in the future. There is no defined path in high school to figure out how to grow whatever talent you have into something tangible that could earn you a living. So, for students at Kaaga Girls and Mother of Apostles Seminary who think they would sound great on radio, LABORADIO conducts workshops on how to make a radio programme. This gives the students a foundation with which to understand what communication and journalism are about—from conceptualising what you want to talk about on a show, to interviewing guests, to scripting and formulating questions, to editing, and more. The workshops last about four to five days. The student podcasts are set up after completion of the workshop, with necessary equipment provided by PASCH and Goethe-Institut. The partnering radio stations also remain available to help the students further.
You may wonder how difficult it is to conduct a workshop in the middle of a school year. The students in Uganda who are participating in the programme are still at home due to COVID, which obviously makes workshops impossible to do. In Kenya, where pandemic sanctions have been lifted and students are allowed to go back to school, there is a substantial workload to consider. Students are now catching up with syllabuses that they had to stop abruptly, or they have to learn at an accelerated pace to make sure they are ready for the next year and grade progression. After a full day of learning, additional homework, study preps and school activities, there is not a lot of time left in the day. LABORADIO works in conjunction with the schools and the parents to ensure that the training happens—permission is sought from the school’s director to sign off on the radio activities. The parents are also consulted and permission is granted, by way of consent forms.
Anto Neosol from Nation FM conducting a training session at Mother of Apostles Seminary © Victor Birai Nation FM sent one of its well-loved presenters, Anto Neosoul, to assist with the workshops at these two schools. Because the students already listen to radio, it was easy for the students to receive him, and be open to learning from him and his experiences. The workshop was very lively, with students being encouraged to talk about the issues that they feel affect them.
Anto Neosol conducting a training session at Kaaga Girls' High School © Martin Mutwiri For students who are on the cusp of adulthood, deciding how to operate in a world that may not yet give their voices a platform, educating themselves on what to do with said platforms and the associated possibilities is essential. Radio is not a hard tool to master, and growing this craft opens these students up to several different fields: being a radio presenter, or learning how to produce a radio show; being the person behind the music who arranges the tracks; being the researcher for a show, and the topics being discussed; and even handling social media channels, creating content and garnering followers online. There are so many ways to live life and imbue meaning, and not from our jobs alone. We just have to show children their options.
A group photo of students from Mother of Apostles Seminary, along with Antoneosol and representatives from Sayare FM and Goethe Institut Nairobi © Victor Birai