Journalism training: Cultural tolerance is key | Africa | DW | 22.03.2016
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Journalism training: Cultural tolerance is key

Binational training teams are achieving significant results in journalism trainings all over the world. DW Akademie has several intercultural duos at work, and Tole Nyatta and Ulli Schauen are among the most experienced.

DW Akademie Kenia Trainerteams

Royal Media Services correspondent Frankline Bwire (center) receives his certificate from trainers Ulli Schauen (left) and Tole Nyatta

Tole Nyatta and Ulli Schauen might be an odd couple but they certainly respect each other. Both are journalism trainers and together make up the two halves of a binational trainer team. Ulli Schauen is a seasoned journalist and trainer from Germany. His counterpart is 37-year-old Tole Nyatta, a radio journalist and media trainer from Nairobi. They have conducted seven workshops together since summer 2015, focusing on local community radios in rural Kenya. They see these radios as an important tool in the country's regionalization process and fight against corruption.

"Dancing the tango"

DW Akademie Kenia Trainerteams

DW Akademie local trainer, Kenyan Tole Nyatta

Nyatta describes their relationship this way: "Our role as trainers is a bit like dancing the tango - we each come at things from a different angle but we're dancing the same steps." Their different perspectives, grins Schauen, are sometimes very different. "Still, only a local person can really understand how people think here and how to work well with them," he says.

With his local knowledge and a cultural background similar to the participants, Nyatta takes on the role of the go-to man or contact person. But that's not all he does, Schauen points out. As a local, Nyatta is also available for the participants after the training finishes.

"Tole is the colleague who provides on-going help and advice," Schauen says. "He's ultimately the only one who sees whether or not the trainees have really grasped what they have learned." Nyatta says that Schauen, for his part, rounds off the program with his personality and knowledge. In essence, he says, Schauen represents the 'bigger picture' or broader perspective. "If we have a European trainer with us, participants can save themselves the cost of a plane ticket to Europe because they can acquire the same know-how right here," Nyatta says.

Schauen stresses that it's important for each partner to be authentic. Traditional journalistic values such as thorough research and a truly independent, critical press are still priorities, he says, and he sees his role as an advocate of these. The personal development of the participants is Nyatta's focus. "A classroom is a forum where a lot of different egos come together," he smiles, "and we have to take that into account."

DW Akademie Kenia Trainerteams

Speaking out on corruption and nepotism: Workshop participants in Kisumu with their international trainer team and Jutta vom Hofe, DW Akademie’s country coordinator for Kenya

Two nationalities delivering a complete package

Working as an intercultural team can be challenging, admit Schauen and Nyatta, but add that they meet these challenges with insight, commitment and humor. They say the participants can sense their team spirit. Musa Naviye is an editor with Radio Sahara, a local radio station in Kisumu County, and says having trainers from Germany as well as from Kenya tops off the training. While she says she enjoys exchanging ideas with other colleagues from the region, "it gets really interesting when ideas come together from completely different directions and across a cultural divide."

Schauen concedes that without his local partner, the workshops could occasionally derail. "Some participants here in the workshop were struggling with work-related problems completely different to the ones we were aiming to cover. Tole picked up on these issues and factored them into the workshop. If I had been on my own, I would have insisted that we stick to the original plan."

DW Akademie Kenia Trainerteams

Workshop participants at Radio Nyota in Bungoma crunch the numbers from a local government financial report

Binational teams require other skills, as well. "Cultural tolerance is key to a successful partnership like ours," says Nyatta. "Through conversations with Tole," adds Schauen, "I've learned how be an effective trainer here in Kenya, without losing patience or insight."

From a practical point of view, this means coordinating their different approaches when they plan the workshop, for example. "Instead of focusing on a bit of this and that, we now concentrate on the journalists and story development," Schauen says.

Nyatta says that he, too, has changed some of his methods since working as a binational team. "I now keep a much closer eye on the clock so that I stay within the given time limit," he grins broadly.

Training on equal footing

Working together without losing one's authenticity is also central to Udo Prenzel's credo when training other trainers. Prenzel is the project manager for DW Akademie's in-house training workshops, and recently worked with Nyatta in Kenya. DW Akademie is conducting similar workshops for local trainers in Libya and Uganda – two other countries where binational trainer teams are working.

Together with Nyatta and additional Kenyan trainers, Udo Prenzel put new training methods to the test and discussed ways of enabling participants to have a say in both the structure and content of their training program.

DW Akademie Kenia Trainerteams

A collaborative approach to discussion and decision-making: DW Akademie workshops enable participants to have a say in classroom processes. On the right: Tole Nyatta

Prenzel says DW Akademie is now using this "participatory" approach in training trainers across the world – including in countries where teaching in schools, colleges and universities is still mainly teacher-centered. "We often have to persuade our local partners that this participatory approach is an effective way to transfer knowledge," he says.

Trainees being on equal footing with the trainers - that's now a given for the intercultural duo Tole Nyatta and Ulli Schauen. Nyatta is convinced that binational trainer tandems are the way forward. "We want to take on responsibility ourselves," he says, "but we don't want to miss out on the international dimension and knowledge that people like Ulli contribute." Schauen nods and smiles, and then adds: "Why aren't we working with binational trainer teams in Germany? This type of intercultural experience would be very useful there, as well."

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