Alex Taremwa, a journalist from Kampala, Uganda joined the Master of Arts in Digital Journalism (MADJ) programme, at AKU's Graduate School of Media and Communications (GSMC) in 2018. He was lucky he had his recommenders on speed dial and his documents already organised because he had experience as he had sent numerous applications to several universities across the globe.
Born in a polygamous family in Kazo district, in South Western Uganda, Alex attended various schools in Uganda before joining Uganda Christian University (UCU) in Mukono to study journalism. Journalism was not his first career choice. He had his eyes set on law because he was a good debater in primary school. This all changed when he joined secondary school as he became an information prefect tasked with editing the school magazine and reading news at the assembly every Monday morning.
His first impression when he joined GSMC was the tremendous hospitality that was accorded to him. He fondly remembers how surprised he was at how good everyone was to him; it felt like he had been there before; “I felt at home from the minute I stepped into GSMC and I really loved it. It was surreal, “he said. He states that his expectations were met and, in some cases, surpassed. “AKU has a reputation of being a multi-cultural environment and that tends to rub-off on students. That kind of exposure cannot leave you the same and I was really keen to tap into it."
Alex cites his most special times on campus as being in class, as he enjoyed physical classes a lot more than online classes because there was real academic chemistry within the group. Despite being far from home, the experience did not deter him; the friendships he made played a key role in helping him not to feel homesick.
The impact of the programme has been felt in his life. He attributes the programme as having given him a good academic grounding and the ability to speak about certain topics authoritatively. He adds that the degree has opened his eyes to some areas in his community that deserve more attention through storytelling and has significantly improved his quality of life by enabling him access new opportunities for personal growth. “I am more empathetic, more critical and more diverse when adding voices to my stories. I don't just practice journalism; I work in journalism for impact, sustainability and improvement of the wellbeing of my audiences," he said.
In addition, the financial assistance he received from the school enabled him to continue to meet his obligations to his family and self. The support has enabled his siblings to continue with their education and helped him live decently in Nairobi, Kenya. “Applying to AKU has been the single best decision of my adult life."
Alex is heavily involved in research. His thesis is on the viability of digital subscription in Uganda. It is important for the media industry to look for alternative revenue streams if they're to survive these waves of disruption. Finding new viable business models is one of the ways to do that.
Set to graduate in May 2021, Alex confesses that he will mostly miss the evening tea that was offered to students during class breaks. He plans to found a media non-profit focusing on Climate Change, and has already started working for GSMC as a Teaching Assistant, based in Kampala.