World Federation of Science Journalists

SjCOOP: mentees freelance internationally and win awards

November 25, 2010

Deborah-Fay Ndhlovu
Cosmas Butunyi
Jean Michel Karangwa
Farah Atyyat
Journalists mentored in the SjCOOP project of the World Federation of Science Journalists hope to freelance internationally. It is one goal of the project. Usually, it happens only halfway in the two years of mentoring, which started last September.

But, when the 25 journalists (mentees) of the English-speaking group met their mentors for the first time in Abuja (Nigeria), from 13th to 17th September, the seeds were planted for the very first publication of a mentee’s article in a prestigious international publication. SjCOOP supports the mentoring in science journalism of three groups: an anglophone and a francophone group in Africa, and another group of arabophone journalists in the Middle East.

In Abuja, capital city of Nigeria, the mentees spent the afternoon of the first day participating in news conferences on scientific research in Nigeria. One of the presenters was Dr. Karniyus Gamaniel, Director of the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD). Dr. Gamaniel talked about the ongoing projects of his Institute and invited the journalists to visit. This was done on September 15th when mentees met the Institute management and interviewed the scientists.

Although mentees visited three Nigerian research centers including NIPRD during the same day and were exhausted, they all were determined to write at least one article about what they had seen. The following day, mentors commented their mentees’ articles and offered their help to refine the stories.

In Abuja, Deborah-Fay Ndhulovu from South Africa wrote two articles; one about a cowpea and rice project at the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) and one about a “technology corridor” project of the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP).
Once back in her country, Deborah wanted to find more about the lack of funding for NIPRD and how it affects its ongoing projects. She continued to exchange with her mentor Ananyo Bhattacharya, the online news editor for Nature’s web site.

Later, Ananyo said: “Deborah’s story started life after the press conference at NIPRD, in Abuja. But it has involved a lot more work since then to stand up the financial aspects and dig into the murky background of Nicosan. She managed to squeeze this into her (limited) spare time and put up with a lot of towing and frowing with me until we were satisfied with it”.

On 18th November 2010, Ms. Ndhulovu published her first article with Nature online:

This achievement is one of the SjCOOP goals. The peer-to-peer mentoring project intends to help mentees freelance internationally and become recognized in their media and internationally.

Another accomplishment during the current mentoring project is the FitzGerald Prize won by Cosmas Butunyi from Kenya. This award allows Mr. Butunyi to do a post graduate degree in journalism at the University of The Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and will join Reuters News for 6 months' work experience afterwards.

Moreover, Mr. Jean Michel Karangwa from Kenya was promoted at his Radio Station. He is now the Editor in Chief of Radio Isango Star, a private radio station in Kigali-Rwanda. He also works for RNW (Radio Netherlands) and writes articles on health and social issues.

Also, on 29th September 2010, Ms. Farah Atyyat, from Jordan, won the regional competition for the best article on the reporting of Ozone and Climate, organized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Stay tuned for more to come.