By Samuel Ejime Okoh
It was Benjamin Franklin who said “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn’’. Franklin, one of the founding fathers of United States of America, was a writer, an inventor and political philosopher. Franklin developed this thought after experiencing the importance of practical learning and on the job knowledge in different areas he excelled before his demise.
As it is now, it is not Franklin alone who believes in the practical aspect of learning. Abuja based Veritas University too does and is walking the maxim by investing heavily in practical learning for her students in the university’s Mass Communications programme. The physical evidence of this can be seen in the Department with the establishment of five (5) functional/professional studios for students’ practicals. The studios are Radio Studio, TV Studio and (Advertising and Public Relations) PRAD Studio. Others are Digital/Editing Suite and Photography Studio.
The radio studio operates the university radio station known as ‘Veritas 104.7 FM’. Students are always happy and excited at the studio as they learn how to handle the microphones, alternating between voice and music slots. ‘Veritas 104.7 FM signal covers many parts of FCT, with spill over effect to neighbouring states. Same excitement is also noticed among students when going through their practical sessions at the Television Studio. Veritas TV studio handles all TV interviews and recordings of the University. Veritas TV studio also liaises with outside television organisations for different TV programme placement especially weekly programme “Veritas Half Hour’’ on Lumen Christi channel.
The digital/editing suite has the equipment and capacity to handle the editing needs of the Radio, TV and digital print room. The special training students of Mass Communication are exposed to at the editing suite is highly technical and practical.
The Public Relations and Advertising studio operates like a full-fledged agency with the following units: client service, media service and the creative unit. Here, students are taken through the process of taking briefs from clients and debriefing the in-house professionals at the agency which is the studio. Brain storming session is observered immediately after debriefing in order to determine the best creative option and effective media deployment to achieve good result for the client.
Photography studio which is the fifth is always full of activities when the students are going through training session. With a well arranged studio area and modern digital cameras worth millions of Naira, students have no choice but to take full advantage of the photo studio, in order to put into practice the theoretical knowledge they get in the class. Students are schooled in the areas of getting good angle shots, technicalities involved in managing different cameras available at the studio and other such information required to be a professional photographer.
Talking about photo journalism in Nigeria, it is important we give credit to people that elevated this craft into the status it enjoys today. Additionally, students with preference for this unique area of journalism should know personalities that made it possible. There are few of them but two have played the pioneering roles. These are Peter Obe and Sunmi Smart-Cole.
Peter Obe, the older of the two died seven years ago at the age of 81. According to Premium Times, Peter Obe’s works influenced a whole generation of photojournalists on account of his courageous coverage and documentation of the 30 month Nigerian Civil War. Obe worked across a varied landscape of photojournalism, from conflict to sports. His coverage of 1980 Africa Nations Cup hosted and won by Nigeria is still a reference point in football coverage till today. He was for many years Chief Photographer of the Daily Times.
Peter Obe was one of the journalists that helped make photography archives of the old Daily Times the best in the country up to a point. The publication has the age and tradition to achieve this feat and that will make the publication the best place to visit in terms of reference materials about Nigerian history when it comes to photography.
Sunmi Smart-Cole is the second iconic Nigerian photographer that students of photography must know and study his works. Sunmi who was born in 1941 is of Nigerian-Sierra Leonean heritage. He studied in the United States of America. He has showcased his works through 30 exhibitions in five continents, a multi-award winner including the 3rd Commonwealth Photography exhibition award in Hong Kong (1983). Smart-Cole online profile revealed that he was the first photo editor of The Guardian in Nigeria and has continued to work in the area of photography as well as publishing books. He established the Sunmi Smart-Cole Gallery of Photography (Probably the first in Africa) in 1990.
Veritas University management team under the leadership of the Vice Chancellor, Prof Hyacinth Ichoku should be commended for investing in these studios, which one would refer to as the USP (Unique Selling Proposition) of the Department of Mass Communications and of the Faculty of Social Sciences. Surely it will not take time for the beneficiaries of these studios to start doing word-of-mouth advertising which will not only attract more students to the Department but help the studios achieve commercialisation and funds for the university.
One person who is so happy and excited about this development is Prof John Sambe, the HoD of Mass Communication because, according him, it is student’s exposure to studios like this that will really prepare them for the industry. The real winners with this development are the students because according to BB King, “the beautiful thing about practical learning is that nobody can take it away from you”
Samuel Ejime Okoh teaches in the Department of Mass Communications at Veritas University, Abuja