Our Plans For NIJ

Recently, Gbemiga Ogunleye, Provost, Nigerian Institute of Journalism and the Deputy Provost, Jide Johnson, visited TheNEWS and fielded questions on the institution and the level they are taking it

What are your plans for NIJ?

Ogunleye: Thank you very much. We appreciate your organisation’s cooperation. Our students come here for what we now call Students Industrial Works Experience (SIWES), one year internship. We are here to express our thanks to you and to present to you the new face of NIJ. I, the Provost and the Deputy are here to seek more areas of cooperation and assistance from TheNews. You know we run the Ordinary National Diploma, OND and Higher National Diploma, HND, programmes and our students go on the compulsory National Youths Service. Apart from that, we have other special programmes – PGD programme and Writers programme. These are the things we do.

So we have come around again to exchange ideas with you; and how best we can cement our relationship. Like we say TheNews is home, and we felt it appropriate to come here. We are open to ideas. We are looking at curriculum, facilities and faculty with a view to ensuring that NIJ becomes the finishing school as far as journalism education in Nigeria is concerned.

What are your plans to improve on the standard your predecessor left behind. She was there for quiet a long time and you are coming in now….

What we are doing now is consolidating on what she has done. Like I said, we are looking at the facilities on ground, we want to improve on digital learning and of course we are looking at the possibility of having exchange programme with similar schools in Africa and abroad very soon. There is a Ghana Institute of Journalism. I think they probably started the same time as NIJ, so we should be able to learn one or two things from there and I know they will love to cooperate in terms of exchange programmes, both students and faculty.

•L-R: Jide Johnson and Gbemiga Ogunleye

We want to create a better learning environment for our students. I am sure by the time we are through with our plans, we will have a new and improved NIJ.

Is there a plan to have a standard campus establishment, where you have accommodation for people who are not Lagos based?

Ogunleye: The plan we had is to see how we can collaborate with private investors, we do not have to expend the meagre resources we have to establish a hostel, No. We are trying to look at collaborating with other people. Our focus is learning and teaching, so we wont go into that but rather we are willing to cooperate with any willing investor that is interested in providing accommodation for students. We will support them. We will look into that.

Johnson: And also to add to that, what is on ground presently is that we don’t have students from other parts of the country but what we do in an informal level is to seek accommodation within Ogba environs where it is secured for such student. This is on an informal level, not official.

The media are going through a revolution- hard copy to online. In terms of courses, do you accommodate this?

Ogunleye: One of our courses is Online Journalism and as part of the review of our curricula for next session, that will be a course inculcated at every level – the OND and HND. We are not running away from it, that is where the younger generation is now. In our own generation, we started using phone maybe after university, even after that maybe 10 years after graduation. But a child in secondary school already has a phone now, he has an access.

So what that means is that our generation’s way of using hard copy is dying. They do everything they want to do on their phone. Everything my daughter has ever bought has been from online market. For their generation, that is the way to go about it. We are not running away from online journalism. In fact I have seen people order their moin-moin on Saturdays on their phone, so its a sine qua non now.

Is it taken for granted that the person who is savvy at the usage of technology, can also be a good person? Can he not cheat in exams or plagiarise?

That is what I taught in class this morning – plagiarism and copywriting. In fact I brought his name to it (points at Kunle Ajibade). You remember the famous case! So I don’t know how you will teach it to a Nigerian audience (and these are known faces) without bringing that one. There was Janet Cook, if you remember, who won a Pultizer for a story that was invented, that never happened.

There was also Michael Finkel from the U.S, that went to Cote D’Ivore to investigate slavery, on cocoa plantation, in fact, took 80 percent of fiction, the thing just blew on his face, later he confessed that it was unreal.

The same with Janet Cook, her story was so good that it moved the U.S Congress (before they knew it was invented) to interfere and said so there is a place in America that is like this?

Johnson: To add to one of the issues raised earlier concerning standard, we have also taken into consideration the issue of exchange programme which I think Mr Kunle Ajibade has helped us term appropriately in fellowship because in an exchange programme whereby a faculty member during the course of the long vacation may have an exchange programme to the newsroom to know the latest trends. You know everything keeps changing. Someone that has left the newsroom 10 – 15 years ago who has been in the classroom might not know the latest trend in the industry. So part of what we have decided to do is about the exchange programme. Some will go to the television house, some to the radio station, magazine and some to newspapers, so that there is an interface between the town and gown.

We will bring the practical aspect into the classroom and occasionally too we have a professional forum on monthly basis, whereby we bring people in the industry to come and share their story and when a student hears the story, it serves as an inspiration to help them become what you have become in the industry.

Ogunleye: NIJ is the baby of the industry. The institution is owned by media organisations. It is not owned by anybody. It is owned by major stakeholders, Nigerian Union of Journalists, Nigerian Guild of Editors, Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria and there is no organisation in the world like this except in this country to my knowledge.

Johnson: So that is why the Provost and the management have deemed it fit to have this type of interaction we are having now, interfacing with the industry, going from one media organisation to the other, asking about the ways you can help and assist us, in what we can do together. When those of us that are in the academia are working in tandem with those in the industry, it will take the profession to a greater heights.

Ogunleye: On a last note, because we are a private school we try to have the students to evaluate the lecturers at the end of every semester. There is a form that we have designed to evaluate lecturers. It has been administered on me myself.

We distribute the forms around to students to evaluate what I have taught – contents, delivery, interaction and everything. The students will not put their name at all. We collate all the forms and evaluate the lecturers. Look, this evaluation is from the students, if anybody does not meet up to a certain minimum standard, you may not see the person the next semester.

Do you have issues with cult related activities?

One of our selling points is that we run an un-interrupted session. One of the reasons is that we do face to face interview. When we are admitting students, apart from the written examination that you have done, there is an oral interview where we interact with you. We ask you questions. Only that way you will be able to spot certain negative tendencies in applicants, so we quietly put your application somewhere. That is what we have been doing over the years and we are not stopping it. It has helped the school and we are friends with our students too, that is also helpful.