World Federation of Science Journalists

SJCOOP mentee graduates with honours, and a new pair of shoes...


January 16, 2013

“Awesome and enriching,” those are the words Rosalia Omungo uses to describe her experience as an SJCOOP mentee.

Involved in the program between 2010 and 2012, she graduated in October 2012 in Amman, Jordan. Omungo was paired with Martin Enserink, editor of Science Magazine, “a mentor who was keen on detail,” commented Omungo. “He edited my stories word for word within the shortest time possible, depending on my deadline.” Enserink was particularly a good pairing for Omungo considering he edits print and online stories.

Omungo really appreciated the emphasis that the SJCOOP program lays on getting out the science in the simplest terms possible. “I learned to make science stories simple, and most of all, to include varied sources.”

Rosalia Omungo with mentors Ananyo Bhattacharya (left) and Martin Enserink (right)
Named best mentee in as far as content was concerned, Omungo enjoyed her two years during which she reveled in sharing experiences with journalists from across the African continent, visiting other countries and getting to learn a few things about their culture.

Now a reporter with Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC-TV), Omungo credits the SJCOOP program for improving her writing, giving her better judgment on story angles and being able to focus on diverse issues including health. Less than a year into the programme, she was promoted to news editor in charge of the science desk at Kenya-TV. She is now mentoring other reporters on how to write stories on science and the environment. “I am looking forward to being a mentor in the SJCOOP program, so I am able to do this beyond Kenya,” she added.

In 2010 Omungo came to Canada on Professor Kathryn O’Hara’s invitation, then chair of the Canadian Science Writers Association (CSWA) and now WFSJ treasurer, and on the recommendation of Dr. Felix Mmboyi, head of the African Biotechnology Stakeholders' Forum based in Nairobi, and Otula Owuor, a scientist and patron of MESHA – a science journalists association in Kenya and a WFSJ member association. MESHA is twinned with the CSWA. During the CSWA meeting, Omungo spoke on the challenges facing Kenyan science journalists. “It was really a great experience getting to share with journalists from the developed world”, Omungo commented. She is currently a member of Kenya Science Journalists Association (KENSJA), which is a member association of the WFSJ, and also twinned with CSWA.

One of the yet to be delivered shoes
While she was Vice-President of WFSJ, Kathryn O’Hara championed twinning between established science journalists associations and developing, fledging ones. During her sabbatical in 2008-2009, she spent November, December and January in Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda mentoring budding science journalists and their associations.

After the 2010 CSWA meeting, Omungo and O’Hara went on a little shopping spree downtown Ottawa. After visiting many shops and trying many shoes, none that fit properly could be found. O’Hara promised to send her a pair, which she did later, but they didn’t fit. After much trials and tribulations, “a new pair is now sitting in my office, awaiting a generous courier to Kenya,” declared Kathryn O’Hara. “Hopefully I can find someone who will be traveling to Kenya shortly and willing to bring the shoes to Rosalia.”