From the Vaults: Teaching Multimedia, Uncategorized

Journey to Rwanda: Teaching Journalism

The Opportunity to Teach Journalism in Rwanda


Photos: Vinita Srivastava1. Villagers in Butare; 2.  “The Motley Crew” at Addis Ababa airport, Ethiopia/July 16, 2008); 3. Mumbai International Airport, CSI –  Chitrapati Shivaji International, 3am; 4. Raymond “This is Africa, Get

I’ve been traveling for days now. Left Toronto on Monday evening after a scattered and hurried week of organizing my fall courses in Toronto for Ryerson University, writing my paper on youth and empowerment and sketching down packing and to-do lists as I run about the city trying to fulfil my obligations before leaving on my last minute trip to Rwanda. I’m going to there to join the Rwanda Initiative, a Canadian-Rwandan partnership that helps to staff the journalism faculty at the National University of Rwanda. Since the genocide 14 years ago, the university has had a difficult time finding qualified staff to teach their students. I’ve been offered a last minute opportunity to teach as someone had to cancel and though I was scheduled to go to Mumbai, India this summer, I have re-routed my plans to include this teaching mission in this small East African nation. I simply could not say no to such a wonderful opportunity to both learn from the students in Rwanda and also hopefully share what I have learned in my last three years as assistant professor at the Ryerson School of Journalism and in my last ten plus years as a journalist in New York.

  By now I thought I might be landing in Kigali, and on my way to meet my new co-worker and co-teacher, Jennifer Moroz, a producer at CBC’s The Hour and find out about my new and temporary teaching position with the university’s first year reporting students. However, instead, I find myself ‘stuck’ in Addis Ababa.

I know it sounds strange. Or perhaps it is just strange to me, to have rerouted a trip to India through East Africa. An ideal itinerary would take two days and several hours to reach Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, directly west of Tanzania. However, because of my India travels, I am traveling through Mumbai. So my journey started at 8pm in Toronto on July 14th. Or rather, it was supposed to. Jet Airways, the new-ish Indian airline is overbooked due to a cancelled flight the day before and after waiting an extra hour and a half to check-in, I almost get bumped to the next day. The only thing that saves me is my connecting flight to Addis Ababa from Mumbai (and then to Kigali from Addis). They are not sure what to do with these unique connections, so they squeeze me onto the plane.

Things have been going smoothly until now. The Jet Airways flight was simple and luxurious in a way (real forks, spoons and even knives!). The service was friendly. As I finally check in the young Indian attendant said to me, “you must be a lecturer.” This was a shocking observation for me, as most people usually assume nothing of the sort. They often place me as someone much younger. Even my co-workers in Toronto have trouble some days. Perhaps I am beginning to finally look my age? Or is it as he said: “you are simply observing everyone and everything around you. You must be a lecturer or something like it.”

And so, Jet Airways was looking good to me. We landed in Brussels and without too much pain, got onto a connecting flight to Mumbai. (I mistakenly say, Bombay, and am told, “I don’t know about you, but I’m going to Mumbai,” by an elderly and friendly Indian gentlemen.)

I knew Mumbai airport was going to be painful. I landed at 11:30 pm and was not scheduled to depart on Ethiopian Airways until 6am. Ethiopian is not as pretty as Jet and not as organized either it seems. There are no greeters here at the airport. And though my flight was at least two hours late, no one has any information for me. My connecting flight from Addis to Kigali is kind of tight so I was afraid I was going to miss it. After a long, cold night at the airport, with what seemed the loudest announcement speakers in the world right above my chair, I got on my flight two hours late and did indeed miss my connecting flight to Kigali, delaying my short teaching assignment by at least 24 hours.

And this is how I ended up in Addis Ababa with my motley crew. Somehow at the Addis airport, all passengers originating in Mumbai and bound for Kigali got paired up: myself, my partner Joseph, Cory, an American coffee organizer and manager in Kigali who was at a friends’ wedding in Bangalore (from his IT days), and Rajnish, the Indian who has never left his village on his way to see his brothers, one in Kigali, the other in TK, Congo. Somehow, Rajnish takes me to be his older sister (or perhaps it is just that I am the only one in this crew that can speak any Hindi at all). So I have become older sister/caretaker suddenly and am worried about work but am all of a sudden lunching on tibs, injera and St. George beer in Addis!