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AAAS Fellowship Program Trains
S. Africans in Science Journalism
Nobulali ("Lalie") Ngozi is a reporter for a community radio station in East London, South Africa, where she works on the business side and in front of the mike. After four weeks as a radio fellow at AAAS, she has a new mission upon her return to South Africa.
"I understand the importance of why science exists and now I have to get that information to the people," says Ngozi. "Generally, people in South Africa are more interested in the humanities because they don't have information on science and technology at a grass roots level. Radio is vital for these kids to get the information they need to make future decisions and choices."
Ngozi's training in using radio to communicate scientific information began four weeks ago and ends Saturday, 3 August. She is one of five South Africansone scientist and four journalistswho have been studying under a team of AAAS staff that produces a daily science radio program, Science Update.
"The South Africans know how to communicate to people in their own culture," says Bob Hirshon, director of media programs for the AAAS Directorate for Education and Human Resources. "But there are very few individuals in South Africa who specialize in science journalism. We hope that the participants in this program will become the nucleus for a strong and growing science journalism community there."
The program that brought the South Africans to Washington, DC, began more than two years ago, as a conversation between a visitor from the South African Department of Arts, Culture, Science, and Technology (DACST) and AAAS staff. The agency was interested in increasing public understanding of science, and AAAS was interested in helping. The three-year DACST-AAAS Science Radio Journalism Fellows Project began in the summer of 2001, with the first group of five fellows, and will continue next year, bringing a total of 15 South Africans to AAAS for training in science and radio journalism. Radio was chosen because it has been shown to be the best means of communicating scientific information in African countries, particularly to residents of rural areas.
DACST is providing $132,000 to pay for the journalism program, with other sponsors helping with expenses related to housing and incidental expenses.
One of the fellows is Jeanette Hewitt, who writes science stories for an educational newsletter based at Rhodes University. Upon her return to South Africa she plans to continue writing, as well as mentoring journalism students.
"As fellows, we need to make sure that we share our legacy with young journalists and science students," says Hewitt. "To bring science to the people we need to look at stories of particular interest to South Africa, emphasizing the faces of young scientists and women in science."
Clinton Nagoor, head of the crime/investigations desk at SABC News in Johannesburg, has been a journalist for seven years and has covered science and technology for a newspaper and magazine. He sees an important role for journalists in improving the public's appreciation of science.
"Science and technology is a really exciting avenue," Clinton said. "We must increase the knowledge and education base of science and technology among the public in South Africa. I'm going to start off with a science radio show and eventually see it grow to television."
6 August 2002
For more information on the DACST-AAAS Science Radio Journalism Fellows Project, read a related article.
See also, audiofiles of the AAAS fellows' efforts.