Katwe secondary school in Western Uganda has taken the FairPen club a step further. They are now creating and selling a local newspaper which has become very popular in the community.
FairPen has been a very popular club at Katwe secondary school for more than three years now. The club has been supervised by Master Henry Kabiriri, but this year the school also got a journalist teacher, Miriam Hagen, from the Norwegian Peace Corps. Hagen believes that FairPen can increase the knowledge and personal development of the students.
“ The school system in Uganda is very rigid,”, she tells, “and there is a lot of focus on repetitive teaching instead of group work, problem solving and independent thinking. I think this result in a quite rigid and little flexible society where people are not trained to be adaptable. I believe Fair Pen is important for the students in order to learn independent and critical thinking, and I can also see their confidence grow when they dear to interview the police or go to report from the court”.
Hagen’s presence gave the school the opportunity to spend even more time teaching the students about journalism, and the group therefore decided to expand and become a community newspaper. The local community embraced the idea, and the fourth edition is currently being sold. “Fair Pen News Katwe” has sold from 75 to 150 copies each edition.
The journalist group from secondary school had a break for three months because the Norwegian teacher was abroad due to an injury, and people kept asking for the newspaper.
“People ask “Where is the Fair Pen news?” and they come to us with ideas for good news stories”, says Deputy Editor Monday Francis who believes that the newspaper is coming to stay in Katwe.
Miriam Hagen also wanted to teach students at secondary school computer skills to prepare them for university studies in more central parts of Uganda. She therefore introduced a digital version of the newspaper. Some of the students had never typed on a computer before, but they are now able to both type and do some simple lay out in Microsoft Word.
The FairPen members meet at the local internet cafe two evenings a week, and they also work together Saturdays and Sundays once a month to finalise the design of the newspaper. The secondary school just got electricity, which makes it possible for the students to also type on the schools computer in the future.
Katwe Tourism and Information Centre (KATIC) has sponsored the newspaper during their high season, and new sponsors are now coming in. The Beach Management Unit (BMU) and Good Times hotel have promised to buy advertisements. This makes the newspaper sustainable, and “Fair Pen News Katwe” is even considering giving a small salary each news story based on how many sources the students have interviewed.
“The students are very good at coming up with ideas of news stories, but they still have to improve their interviews skills and the way the quote the sources. This is a way to give them positive motivation for doing a great job with their sources”, says Hagen.