A newly formed group of Pacific media educators have joined together under the MEP (Media Educators Pacific), with a vision to make a difference in media training and education.
Representing members are currently educators at the Technical, Vocational and Education Training (TVET) Media Institutes from Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, who have united as a way to bring together the ideas and concerns of all education providers involved.
Representatives include Nora Tumua and Misa Vicky lepou (National University of Samoa - NUS), Eslyn Kaltongga and Dave Charlie (Vanuatu Institute of Technology - VIT) Siosifa Pomana (Tonga Institute of Higher Education - TIHE) and Shailendra Singh (University of the South Pacific - USP, Fiji).
MEP was formed at the end of the second and final Pacific TVET Journalism Initiative Workshop held in Suva, Fiji, last week. There was no representative from the Solomon Islands National University at the final workshop but there was indeed a clear support during the first meeting in January this year.
NUS Media and Journalism lecturer, Misa Vicky Lepou, who is also the spokesperson for MEP, said that regional educators have met a few times in the region and have seen the need to form such a group.
In a region where media is the least respected profession, Misa said that governments look to more revenue-earning industries and community interests to take care of and therefore affecting how each country’s media education courses are run.
She also said that Pacific educators tend to focus on what is happening on a global scale, forgetting what needs to be done on a local front.
“We work and live in an environment where we learn and observe so much from higher education institutions in Australia and New Zealand,” she said.
“We build our learning and teaching experiences on a global view that we are not often being heard of what low resourced institutions like us do need.”
“With MEP’s presence now in the region, we want to stay clear of our objective to get the best help we need to improve the quality and quantity of future journalists that do come through our institutions.
“We want to work together with all our stakeholders and we need their support. For example, our first and foremost partners are the media industry that we, as educators need to forge a strong relationship as they are the immediate employers for our graduates. We learn from the needs of the industry.”
However, MEP’s proposed plans will not function as a more formal group as in appointing an executive at this point. It will operate as a semi-formal group where an online platform has been set up for educators and students to exchange ideas and resources amongst each other to see how well it goes over a period of time.
Such an online platform, such as an online chat room, will discuss MEP’s focus on the challenges educators face in terms of providing quality education.
“Our sector continues to face challenges and that is something we have in common. Our current situation always has been that each TVET is on its own, finding ways to source and draw the attention of donors at some point to look more deeper into the reality of running short with resources and equipment, having limited space to expand its scope, or even staff turnovers that will continue to implicate on quality of media education in the region.”
“This is something we can work on under MEP. We help each other in terms when one needs help. We knock on those doors to assist.”
“We then look elsewhere such as short term training opportunities for media practitioners that can provide an avenue for media educators to upgrade skills, knowledge and attributes, but it isn’t a path that we, as educators continue to walk on.
“Should we choose to do so, our challenges across the region as media and journalism providers will not be fully addressed”, she added.
“We need to take that step ahead of the industry so we invest on producing quality and quantity of not just professional but qualified journalists in the region.”
MEP are currently working on ideas to get the initiative started, including a non competitive film festival to produce content, regional competitions through for print radio and online, regional media and journalism student awards. “At least something we can achieve in the next twelve months for staff and students. There is so much talent in the region, we just need to provide and take them through that pathway, not just any but the right pathway.”
“We would very much like to make this a pacific oriented group. There are a lot of potential projects that we could do as a group. We just need to come together as one body, one voice, one mind to address media training and education challenges in the region.”
“We can be very open minded about our vision and how we want this to be moving in the region but if we cannot walk the talk by fronting up to our challenges and put the needs of our students and stakeholders first, it will all be just another political game.”
Another MEP member echoed the way forward, USP’s Shailendra Singh said it is important to get something started this year.
“We will try and get something off the ground this year hopefully to create pathways for staff and student exchanges.”
Misa said members need to go outside their comfort zones to gain the respect of stakeholders, including students, the media, institutions, and communities.
Part of the group’s vision is to also gain the support from educators in Australia and New Zealand.
“You cannot stand tall like a mountain, as the saying goes,” she added. “We will not refrain from inviting our bigger institution partners in Australia and New Zealand”.
Director of the Pacific Media Centre in New Zealand Professor David Robie said journalism cannot simply be taught in a classroom.
“Journalism is about publication and broadcast on multi-platforms these days and Pacific journalism educators need to ensure that they are upskilling their methods to not just keep up with the times, but to ensure they are introducing cutting-edge ideas,” said Prof. Robie.
Robie was also the Head of Journalism Programmes at the University of Papua New Guinea and USP for years.
He said that many issues confront the Pacific, including climate change, and there is too much dependence on Western news agencies and sources in the region.
“Pacific media groups should also be looking to educators in many other countries, not just Australia and New Zealand. For example, the experience of journalists and educators in the Philippines is far closer to the Pacific reality than Australia and New Zealand.”
The group plans to use online platforms as a way of keeping in contact, share staff and student resources, create open chat forums, showcase and publish staff and students’ work and research and assist each other with content exchange.
Alistar Kata is a student intern under the NUS Media and Journalism School in partnership with a NZ based non-governmental organization called Pacific Cooperation Foundation (PCF). She is of Cook Island, Maori (Ngapuhi) descent from Auckland, NZ and is studying towards her Honours year of the Communication Studies programme at AUT University.
By Alistar Kata
Misa Vicky Lepou during her presentation on MEP at the Suva TVET Journalism Initiative last week
MEP: Pacific Educators joining forces to improve delivery of media education and training in the region.