My introduction to Umthathi
In the past two weeks, Annie Polak and I have been in regular contact with the various workers of the Umthathi Training Project. We have had the opportunity of getting to know them, and for them to know us, and so far I believe there is still room for our relationship to improve even more.
When I first met the programmes manager Michelle Griffiths and the administrator, Xoliswa Mbewu, I was immediately impressed. My sense was that Umthathi is an NGO performing a key function in the Grahamstown community and surrounds. I sensed that they do this against all odds, particularly in context of having minimal support from potential funders. When I visited the Umthathi headquarters with my colleague Annie Polak though, I realised that funding was only the beginning of the problem. There also seems to be a need for much more awareness within the communities they target of contribution that Umththi is making to local development. They do so by training schools and other groups within the community in gardening methods, and educating them about healthy eating habits. I think that not enough is known about their work, within the broader Grahamstown community. It could be then, that a the proposal that Annie and I have been asked to consider by our radio lecturer - i.e. to establish a food gardening show on Radio Grahamstown - would be of great benefit to Umthathi. Such a show could could focus on aspects related to gardening, healthy living, and other issues which Umthathi deals with.
When we were introduced to this project at the start of this term, it was explained to us that it would operate as a form of service-learning. I think that establishing a show of this nature, in partnership with Radio Grahamstown and Umthathi, could certainly operate as a form of service learning, As I understand it, service-learning demands that all the different partners benefit from the process. We would be carrying out a service to the institutions we are in partnership with. While they were to learn from what we were bringing to the partnership, we too were going to learn from what the partners were putting in, and from the experience of being in the audio production partnership. Certainly, I can see how I would benefit as students. By being involved in such a project, I would learn and grow as a radio journalist, through grappling with the stories I would help to cover, starting a radio show from scratch, attempting to make it sustainable, and playing a leadership role throughout this process. At the same time, I can also see how this is an opportunity for Umthathi to benefit, since it would provide them with a platform for having their work publicised to a wider audience. At the same time, they would learn basic audio skills, which would assist them in ensuring that they can make good use of this platform.
In our radio course this year, we are exploring different ways of thinking about knowledge production . As part of this exploration, we have been looking at different paradigms or strategies of thought of social research, and considering the value of each for the conceptualisation of knowledge production. As part of our discussions, we spoke, for example, about the value of the interpretivist versus the critical paradigm.
I think that, in my approach to this radio show, I want to draw on both these paradigms. An interpretivist paradigm would allow for guidelines and agreements to inform the partnership, and possible themes to tackle in the radio show. A critical paradigm would provide a means of creating an understanding of these themes, and allow for the full understanding of each of the partners in this partnership, about the institutions represented in the partnership, and the people behind it. I think both paradigms bring something to the process of producing a worthwhile radio show to be produced, which interrogates ways in which a gardening and healthy living radio show can be both interesting and long-lasting. The interpretivist paradigm will look at different angles of looking at the respective themes of the show which are yet to be identified. A critical paradigm will form a wider branch in this process, where different factors and topics which result from the respective themes will be looked at. The critical paradigm will look at the viability of themes and topics to be discussed in the show.
All in all, I would say that this project offers me a great opportunity to grow as a radio journalist, and that it will hold me in good stead for my future endeavours. It will, I believe, take hard work to make all of ideas come together properly. But I am a dedicated and hard-working individual, and will offer that quality to this project I will attempt to ensure that Xoliswa gets sufficient training to be able to co-host a radio show. I will engage with Radio Grahamstown, specifically Bongiwe Bozo, Phumlani Wayi and Khaya Thonjeni, to ensure that the station provides and trains producers who will take over the production aspect of the radio show when Annie and I leave the project. I will work with them, ensuring that a shared set of editorial guidelines are established which will ensure that the production team continue to keep these in mind. If I have achieved these tasks, I will know that I have succeeded