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Training Rural Communicators: New Approaches In Tanzania

by William M.F. Shija

Independence in black Africa precipitated problems of economics and policy and of redefining the goals and means of development. In Tanzania. One of the 30 countries that achieved independence in the 1960s. President Julius K. Nyerere steered his compatriots toward unification, education, and economic growth. He succeeded in reducing intertribal hostilities and in promoting Kiswahali as the national language. Literacy rose from 25 per cent in 1970 to 75-80 per cent in 1975. Health standards have improved and life expectancy has increased. The country has been stable since its independence in 1961.

These accomplishments have, however, been accompanied by economic problems. Country people, comprising 95 per cent of the population, have accepted this formulation. A more egalitarian system of development was seen as imperative in order to correct imbalances usually associated with the socio-economic development process. This was necessary to promote agricultural production and rural development. Nyerere promoted integrated rural development by arguing that self-reliance was essential and that all men must help themselves instead of relying on "outsiders". His socialist orientation was nevertheless accepted by foreign financial interests which extended credits estimated to be $2.6 billion in 1984. 2 Tanzanian leaders attribute this debt to national needs, natural hazards, such as droughts, and external forces, such as international industrial and trade networks.

No television. Recognizing the difficulties of progress, Tanzanian leaders have sought to re-examine the role of mass media in promoting development from the grass roots. Two factors support this. First, Western patterns of communications and development, based on urban, industrial, and capital formation, were unsuitable amid the great tribal, cultural, and linguistic diversity of rural Africa. Second, the lack of government or commercial funding prevents the media development of both hardware and software needed for technologically sophisticated mass communications. For example, solely because of economic and technological constraints, there is no television in Tanzania except in the two islands of Zanzibar and Pemba. Radio, however, has been reasonably successful in Tanzania largely because about 80-90 per cent of the people understand Kiswahili.

During the 1960s and 1970s. Tanzania undertook some isolated short term media operations in support of the rural population. Similar isolated activities have been conducted in Ghana, Togo, Cameroon, and Benin. During the 1970s, the African Council on Communication Education (ACCE) became instrumental in coordinating the training and education of African communicators. It has called for African communication institutions to reorient their programmes toward rural communication. ACCE seminars and conferences in Arusha, Tanzania (1981), and Lome. Togo (1984), reiterated that individual institutions should venture into the process of training rural communicators. 3 Along with efforts of ACCE, such United Nations agencies as FAO, UNICEF, and WHO have been involved in rural forums in Africa for quite some time.

Inadequate training. In Tanzania, rural communication could be traced to the late 1960s, although the Ministry of Agriculture's farmers' education goes back to colonial times. Two branches of communications and development, radio forums and mass campaigns, began after the Arusha Declaration (Blueprint for Socialism and Self-reliance) in 1967. The radio forums were part of Tanzania's effort to redefine the role of the mass media in the construction of a new socialist society. The mass campaigns, using radio and other means, focussed on adult education, health, and the cooperative movements. One sueh mass campaign, conducted in 1973, called "Mtu ni Afya" (man is health), was rated successful. Reports show, however, that one of the greatest operational problems of the campaign was inadequate training of group leaders. 4

It was due to this lack of training that the Nyegezi Social Training Institute in Mwanza, Tanzania, operated under the auspices of the Catholic Church in Tanzania, launched a three-month rural communication course in 1982.

The Institute's chief goal was to begin producing qualified personnel who would interact effectively with the rural people to create desired change. Toward this end, the training course concentrated on three areas: communication skills, such as writing reports and preparing audiovisual materials for rural communication; general knowledge about the rural environment and rural people's general attitudes, values, and economic potentials; exposing trainees to rural areas through directed practical study of communication systems of selected villages.

The selection of trainees was much debated and provoked additional questions, even about the meaning of rural communication itself. Among the categories included were: agricultural extension workers, rural health and nutrition workers, cooperative officers, adult education coordinators, primary and secondary school teachers, rural newspaper and mass media personnel, church personnel, and village managers. A trainee was expected to have reached Grade 12 (Form IV in Tanzania) although candidates with less education but impressive experience and interest were considered.

The course length of three months is generally acceptable for short courses in Tanzania. After three years experience, course participant evaluations show that 75 per cent of the trainees approve of this duration, but also suggested that the course be extended to six months to give the trainees more time in their area of specialization and more practical training.

Involved communication. During the three years under review, the trainees were guided throughout the course toward the process of involved communication. A rural communicator is expected to motivate, educate, exchange, locate and relate the usefulness of local ideas, materials, and talents, induce people toward creativity, innovation, and selfreliance, call in experts, and identify and mobilize youth activities. A typical example of' local initiative occurred at the height of Tanzania's economic recession in 1982/83. Because of a severe shortage of soap, groups of women, youths, and men organized in various urban and rural communities to produce soap for their own use and for sale. Though the products were of poor quality, they were plentiful and, most important, had been manufactured by local people using locally available materials. Solving the soap problem gave a sense of self-reliance, an aim most rural communicators would agree is desirable.

Since 1982, the Nyegezi Social Training Institute (NSTI) has trained 30 rural communicators sponsored by government and other agencies. The majority came from the Ministry of Agriculture. This number is small in the face of Tanzania's compelling need for rural development. However, here are many other people who have passed through some kind of informal instructional programmes to increase their abilities to tackle rural development problems. The Institute of Adult Education has been particularly active in this regard. The Ministry of Agriculture in Tanzania has found the course at NSTI to be so useful that officials said they intend to ask the Institute to make room for 10 or more every year in addition to the 10 it has been sending. The NSTI itself is optimistic about the continuation of the course and may expand the intake from the present 10 a year to about 30 in the future, depending on institutional and operational logistics. There have been applicants for the course from other African countries besides Tanzania, among them Botswana, Swaziland, and the Gambia.

Choosing the subjects offered in the Rural Communication Course at NSTI was not easy. Since the first curriculum was designed in 1982 to meet the immediate theoretical and practical requirements of Tanzania's socio-economic aspirations, it was reasonable to select subjects that would provide both skills and knowledge in rural communication. These subjects were: Reporting and Writing, Editing. Development Communication. Rural Sociology, Fundamentals of the Tanzanian Economy. Principles of Management, and Political Education.

Recognizing news. The reporting and writing course was designed to help the trainees recognize newsworthiness in the developmental process, to write information or stories that are compatible with rural activities, and to prepare audiovisual materials that support the printed matter. Since agricultural productivity may vary from village to village within one district and region, rural communicators are expected to use reporting and writing skills to monitor the successes or failures in other areas that could be instructive to their own communities. Among those who have benefitted from this training are officers of the Ministry of Agriculture who develop and write pamphlets for farmers. Some graduates of the programme are now involved in writing such pamphlets as "Kilimo Cha Kahawa" (coffee farming), "Kilimo Cha Ngano" (Wheat farming), and "Kilimo Cha Pamba'' (cotton farming), and articles for the monthly agricultural magazine "Ukulima wa Kisasa Tanzania" (modern farming in Tanzania). The pamphlets and magazine are prepared by the Farmers' Education Department of the Ministry, which also prepares a variety of audio-visual materials for use in extension services. In the future, writing courses are also likely to help trainees from the Ministry of Agriculture to improve their radio programmes, such as "Shambani Wiki Hii" (this week's farming), broadcast twice weekly over Radio Tanzania. Dar-es-Salaam.

Another subject in the course curriculum was Development Communication, chosen to provide opportunity for trainees to discuss and evaluate the meaning, processes, and problems of communications and rural development. This course integrated the processes of preparing development messages and of disseminating them to various and sometimes dissimilar audiences in Tanzania. Over the last three years, notable topics in this subject included: ''Tree planting and its importance''. "The avoidance of 'burning' to prepare the land for cultivation", "Construction of compost piles or sites", and "Care of water resources and water reserves". Others were: "The utilization of health services", "The planting of family vegetables and fruits and consuming them", "Child care and general nutrition", "The importance of the ability to read and write", and "The importance of participating in study groups". These themes or topics, taken from agriculture, health and basic education, were among the many topics which made the seminars in Development Communication important and interesting.

The practical aspect of Development Communication involved going to neighbouring villages to conduct interviews and discussions about chosen aspects of development activities. These exercises were intended to elicit villagers' attitudes on a wide range of subjects. Trainees were assisted in preparing audio-visual materials to be used in the discussion with the villagers. For example, charts and cassette recordings were used in discussions about afforestation and irrigator possibilities in two villages near the Institute in 1983. The trainee teams found that the villagers would be eager to support and sustain the projects if given technical assistance.

Rural dynamics. The fourth subject was Rural Sociology, to bring out and to foster appreciation of the rural dynamics in development. Seminar discussions concentrated on recognizing Tanzania's demographic differences and preparation of messages for particular areas or groups.

To supplement the above core subjects, the following courses were offered: Elements of Economic Production in Tanzania, Principles of Management and Material Conservation, and Political Education. All the three subjects were used to relate the everyday rural life to measures of economic development. Political Education is a required subject for every educational programme in Tanzania and trainees enjoyed discussing both national and international affairs. Trainees also observed the conflicts which sometimes arise between professional personnel and political leaders at various levels of the development activities.

Besides the theoretical perspectives of the course subjects, the trainees had to undertake a practical course. They had to live in a selected rural area for one week and conduct surveys on how mass media messages were understood, misunderstood, or completely unknown. The trainees have said more than once that some youths were interested in having some kind of information centres in their villages. In many villages the idea of having village libraries was welcome, because, the villagers argued, it would sustain their newly acquired literacy. The concept and operation of rural libraries has still to be strengthened in Tanzania.

Due to lack of a comprehensive evaluation of the Rural Communication Course at NSTI, little is known about graduates in areas other than those in the Ministry of Agriculture. It is rewarding to note, however, that some of the graduates of the course have assumed new responsibilities as district agricultural information officers in the Morogoro, Kilimanjaro, and Pwani regions. Some of their superiors at regional level were graduates of the two-year Diploma Course in Journalism at NSTI, whose curriculum is also geared toward communications and development.

To support the training process and subject materials, the faculty used the available journalistic training equipment and facilities. The Institute installed a new radio studio in 1983 for training in radio production. Last year, one faculty member attended short courses in radio production in England and the Federal Republic of Germany to strengthen the studies in radio at the Institute. Another faculty member attended a workshop on "curriculum design" in Yaounde, Cameroon, in 1983. The workshop in Cameroon delved into the training of rural communicators, and its recommendations are likely to be reflected in future revisions of the curriculum for the training of rural communicators at NSTI.

In Tanzania, and in Africa as a whole, communications are slowly being accepted as a critical element in development. The importance of training rural communicators is also slowly gaining recognition. It is therefore hoped that this kind of training will be the basis of communication training institutions and will be incorporated into the mainstream of Tanzania's communications policies.

Outsiders still dominate. The second possibility lies in research. African communication students and practitioners need to delve deeply into research activities that are relevant and applicable to their societies. In Tanzania, this possibility is already evident since schools of communication, mass-media personnel, and policy makers have started to meet regularly to chart ways and means of improving communications at national level. Research in communications in Tanzania, as in other African countries, is still dominated by outsiders.

The third possibility lies with the future involvement of the communication training institutions themselves. As recommended by the African Council on Communication Education (ACCE), the future training of rural communicators could be made general as well as specialized. Trainees who come from such sectors as agriculture or health would at one time concentrate on their field specialization’s. The founders of the Rural Communication Course at NSTI had this plan in mind when the course was launched in 1982.

It is hoped that these ideas and observations would further encourage the training of rural communicators in Tanzania and elsewhere in Africa. The Tanzanian experience is but a modest beginning in the effort of using communications for rural development of appropriate technologies through which self-reliance would emerge.