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Inspiring the next generation

Pius Sawa, a freelance journalist based in Kakamega, Kenya, first received training from the WRENmedia team in 2008 and has continued to work as part of the WRENmedia family of African correspondents since then. Using his skills, Pius has gone on to train and work with scores of university students, fellow journalists, and scientists about communicating complex scientific information in an engaging manner. After a recent event, he tells us more about the training he offers to others.

Since receiving WRENmedia training, Pius has gone on to train scores of people about communicating complex scientific information in an engaging manner © Pius Sawa

My training sessions with the WRENmedia team began in 2008 in Arusha, Tanzania, and I have been privileged to continue training and working with WRENmedia and other African journalists since then. Some of the most invaluable skills I learnt during my training include interview techniques, being a role model, keeping focus, maintaining eye contact, asking follow-up questions, conducting research, and audience engagement. To this day, I work hard to pass these skills on to others.

After receiving my training, I set up a studio from which to mentor university students and young journalists to inspire them and give them confidence. Training radio journalists is a particular interest of mine, as I believe these individuals carry the heaviest burden of painting pictures while telling stories.

I have now trained and mentored more than 100 journalists, including university interns. But there are three journalists I am particularly proud of: Ronald Kato from Uganda, and Gabriel Ingubu and Christopher Owino from Kenya. All three started their careers in radio and, between 2009 and 2014, I held teaching sessions with each of them during which I passed on a range of skills – including writing scripts, narration, and how to use sound effects and interviews to bring out the flow of the feature. Today, all three excel in their field. Ingubu, for instance, is now a leading journalist in Kenya working for Tansaza FM in Bungoma. He has won awards and travels all over the world covering science stories on health, environment, and development. He calls me ‘Mwalimu’ (teacher) and still consults me.

I don’t only train others on a one-to-one basis: I also participate in larger training sessions and workshops held by leading organisations to enhance my existing skills. For example, I recently attended a three-day Road Safety Reporting workshop in Nairobi, led by Science Africa and the World Health Organization (WHO) in October 2022. The event was designed to inform journalists about the crucial topic and show them how to train others on the issue.

I initially saw the application callout on the media platform IJNet and, less than a week after my submission, I received an email from the event organisers saying I had been chosen. Only 15 journalists – including myself – from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, were selected from 650 applicants! Upon arrival, I was pleased to meet Mercedes Sayagues, a media trainer and mentor for WHO, who introduced me to colleagues as “a great trainer with vast experience.” This made me feel so proud.

Making science relatable

As part of the Science Africa and WHO training, I was tasked with holding a mini workshop – teaching my fellow participants how to disseminate important scientific facts and findings in an engaging and understandable way. For this assignment, I decided to use an example scenario of a good science journalist interviewing a scientist who uses lots of jargon. Afterwards, everybody said that they learnt something new from me – and I get excited when participants are happy.

What inspires me about training is that I get to share the art of breaking down scientific information into simple language that lands softly on the ears of the listener. So many individuals who require an awareness of scientific-based issues, such as climate change, never received an education – so it is vital that technical information is conveyed to them in a straightforward manner. I truly believe that uncommunicated science is a disability.

Following the Science Africa/WHO event, the organisers announced that the participating trainers would receive a training grant of up to US$1,000 – and the funds I receive will go towards educating radio journalists who did not qualify to attend the workshop. These journalists work at five different radio stations from five counties of western Kenya. Many of them have limited funds, so I will visit them directly. During these one-day training sessions – which I aim to hold by the end of December 2022 – I will teach them the best skills relating to reporting and hosting interviews, and communicating scientific language in a simple and clear way. I am sure that these lessons will help them apply valuable skills to many aspects of their work.

Becoming a good trainer doesn’t happen overnight; it is a continual process. I am always looking to develop and, at the recent Science Africa/WHO training, I grasped the opportunity to learn new tools, such as the best ways to search for information online. It takes time, commitment, and the best training to reach the level I have. But my courage and confidence exist because WRENmedia showed me that I had the potential to be a good trainer.

Pius Sawa

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