Portraits of Mauritians by students

!Warning! Long post!

I recently published the post entitled “Portraits de Mauriciens par les étudiants” showcasing my students’ assignments in Broadcast and Digital Journalism/Reporting. The idea to do this assignment came to me when I was seeing our local media houses preparing to publish a lot about the 50th anniversary of our country’s independence about a month before the anniversary date of the 12 March 2018. Most of them were celebrating well-known people, in particular people who have been and are still in the limelight within the short history of our nation.

So, I wanted to do something different that would be complementary: portraits of at least 50 ‘ordinary’ Mauritian citizens, with a special focus on what I call the ‘non-elites’, that is, people who have never been in the limelight or barely. People who have contributed something to our society in their ‘modest’ capacity. The idea was to show that a nation is not just made up of elites, it’s also about the silent masses. I thus asked the students to find people who, despite their ‘unfavourable’ origins or life difficulties, have done or are doing their part. The objective was to try and give a little more voice to the voiceless.

Students were free to make proposals provided they followed the philosophy outlined above. There were no other content restrictions. In fact, I was experimenting to see if they could naturally come up with enough diversity in terms of gender representation and geographical location. More importantly, I was expecting students to stay away from the complacency of rehashing stuff already churned out by mainstream media.

I have to say that in this module, I usually ask students to produce radio news bulletins in the first semester and video news bulletins in the second semester. Somehow, I had been battling with getting them to do the usual reporting stuff by the beginning of the second semester. So, what could I do to raise their enthusiasm? I exposed the idea of the 50 portraits and they all seemed keen to do the assignment.

How did it go?

The bad: In some ways, it did not go as well as I would have liked.

Deadlines: The objective was to get the videos online by mid-March. Each student had to propose and produce 2 mini-portraits (1 per fortnight). Needless to say that the deadlines were never met fully. Some made a special effort but would be constrained by either mundane or technical difficulties such as securing appointments, persuading people to let them in, difficult shooting location conditions, lack of technical capabilities…

The talking heads: I especially did not want the ‘talking heads interview’ style. Students were supposed to bring in enough visual material to intercut with the interviewees so as illustrate their statements and to avoid monotony. Some students failed to do so.

Complacency: Like many journalists, some students were complacent and chose members of their own family or friends as subjects, although, one could argue, why not if they are interesting enough, which some of them were. With two student cohorts making up a total of 28, this was kind of inevitable.

Poor technical quality: Despite talking extensively about the need for stable images, smooth camera movements if any and sober transitions, there were still many shaky camera stills (!), shaky camera movements and dubious transitions.

I listened to myself often reprimanding students and felt sometimes depressed about the whole project which was supposed to raise everybody’s enthusiasm. I was especially annoyed when they came back with gaps in their interviews such as not getting basic information or not asking obvious follow-up questions. I guess that’s also because too many of our mainstream media people just don’t ask follow-up questions. I am particularly annoyed that many interviews start with “Tell me about you” and end with “What’s your message?” with nothing much in between.

The good: In many other ways, I was in for pleasant surprises.

Gender balance and age groups: There was some balance in gender distribution. In terms of age groups, there was a majority of middle-age people, a fair share of young ones, and a few retired persons. One would have imagined that being given that it was the 50th anniversary of our country, there would be a tendency to look for people aged 70+ as witnesses of that time. I was glad this was not the case.

White vs. blue collars: In terms of professional categories, most of the interviewees can be classified as blue-collars, with a few straddling both white and blue-collar categories like the student farmer and the well-known shopkeeper politician.

The nice weirdos and outliers: There were some gems like the people doing ‘ordinary’ but useful things like mending shoes on the street or unique characters such as the tailor cum coconut seller who sings karaoke in Port-Louis. There’s also the very old lady who still works as ‘bonne à tout faire’ and the outspoken and dynamic lady who sells pickled fruits.

Despite this being about Mauritians, one student chose to interview an Indian tailor. His account in Creole of how migrant workers are treated in textile factories was quite poignant despite being sometimes difficult to understand because of his accent.

We also had two Greek Erasmus students who joined in the class. They fully participated and were quick to identify potential interviewees. These were the only interviews conducted in English as the students did not understand Creole.

The good/bad
A company stole a student’s video about former professional footballer Eric Philogène who is now a skipper and posted it on Facebook as its own without given any credit to the student (they even added their logo and credits to the video). Luckily, when he complained, they removed it. The good in this? It means they liked the video and thought it was well done. Though I fail to see how come professional people could do such a thing, at least they reacted positively.

For some of my students, this was their first attempt at video production and we had wasted a lot of weeks in the beginning of semester due to the Berguitta cyclone, torrential rains and public holidays. Together with my technician Ketan, we had to give a crash course on handling the camera and tripod and also on how to do the video editing because they had not yet completed a colleague’s module on audiovisual production.

We also have a lack of adequate audio recording equipment at the Mediacom Studio so we have to find tricks to compensate (backup recording with phone or audio recorder, raising audio levels in iMovie) and this obviously does not always turn out well.
[Side note: if there are any sponsors willing to donate for upgrading our material, please do get in touch on chanssc@uom.ac.mu]

End words
It was an exhausting project, both physically and mentally. But if this can get just a fraction of the students to get moving, try out some different stuff, I guess I have to be happy.

Also, I have to consider that most of our student cohorts come from lower and lower middle class families with limited means in terms of transport, personal equipment and cultural exposure. There were no sexily shot or edited videos for this reason. Had I been working at a private TEI with privileged students, the outputs would probably have been more glossy and glamorous. That would have been too easy maybe…

Reportages des étudiants sur la Zourne Internasional Kreol 2017 à l’UOM

Texte de Marie Daniella Jolicoeur et Alexa Marie

La Zourne Internasional Kreol a été célébrée le lundi 30 octobre à L’Université de Maurice  pour la 17ème année consécutive. Au niveau mondial, cela fait maintenant 34 ans que la journée est célébrée. La journée a débuté par le discours du Professeur Arnaud Carpooran, le doyen de la Faculté des Sciences Sociales et Humaines de l’Université et celui du Dr Sachita Samboo, chef du départment de français.

Arnaud Carpooran au micro de Mandira Dawoosing:

La cérémonie protocolaire était suivie d’une discussion autour des poèmes en français et en anglais traduits en créole par le poète Michel Ducasse dans son recueil Enn Bouke Bwa Tanbour, une séance animée par Bruno Jean-Francois, professeur en littérature francaise à la Penn State University.

Michel Ducasse et le Prof. Arnaud Carpooran au micro de Shivanee Vencatachellum et Bhommija Jaglall:

Michel Ducasse au micro de Indeeree Rungien, Vidushi Chamroo et Neevedita Nundowah:

La journée a surtout été marquée par une séance parlementaire traduite en créole par les étudiants de BA French et BA French in Translation de première année sous la direction de Yani Maury, chargée de coursà  temps partiel et doctorante à  l’Université de Maurice. Le but de cette séance n’était pas de parodier les politiciens mais de savoir si la langue créole pouvait être utilisée au parlement.

Yani Maury au micro de Varun Nathooram:

Michel Ducasse et Yani Maury au micro de Neeveditha Nundowah:

Cette simulation a suscité de nombreuses réactions. Les spectateurs ont pu partager leurs opinions. Ils étaient plusieurs à demander: si les politiciens arrivent à parler le créole pendant les meetings, pourquoi donc ne pas l’utiliser lorsqu’il s’agit de prendre des décisions pour le peuple?

Autres intervenants:

Daniella Police-Michel au micro de Salman Utim: 

Guillem Florigny au micro de Ashley Seetannah:

Marjorie Desveaux, Vice-Presidente du CSU, au micro de Mehryne Annoar:

Galerie de photos:

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Troisième série de bulletins radio des étudiants en journalisme (2017-2018)

Le bulletin radio fait partie des exercices imposés dans le cadre du module ‘Broadcast and Digital Journalism/Reporting’ enseigné par Mme Christina Chan-Meetoo en deuxième année de BSc (Hons) Journalism à l’Université de Maurice.

Voici donc la troisième série de bulletins réalisés par les deux groupes constitués dans la classe.

(Voir la première série de bulletins radio ici
et la deuxième série ici)

Bulletin de Mehryne et Nazrana

Bulletin d’Indeeree et Parvin

Deuxième série de bulletins radio des étudiants en journalisme (2017-2018)

Le bulletin radio fait partie des exercices imposés dans le cadre du module ‘Broadcast and Digital Journalism/Reporting’ enseigné par Mme Christina Chan-Meetoo en deuxième année de BSc (Hons) Communication Studies with Journalism à l’Université de Maurice.

Voici donc la deuxième série de bulletins réalisés par la classe.

(Voir la première série de bulletins radio ici)

Bulletin de Shivanee et Bhoomija

Bulletin de Davina et Kristy

Premiers bulletins radio des étudiants en journalisme (2017-2018)

Le bulletin radio fait partie des exercices imposés dans le cadre du module ‘Broadcast and Digital Reporting’ enseigné par Mme Christina Chan-Meetoo en deuxième année de BSc (Hons) Journalism à l’Université de Maurice.

Voici donc la première série de bulletins réalisés par les deux groupes constitués dans la classe.

Veuillez noter que ceci est un exercice pédagogique destiné à permettre aux étudiants d’apprendre les métiers du journalisme tels que:

– Rédacteur-en-chef / Rédactrice-en-chef
– Présentateur de journal / Présentatrice de journal
– Journaliste reporter

Pour le premier semestre, les étudiants sont appelés à faire un briefing, allouer les sujets, faire les interviews, monter les sons, enregistrer les présentateurs et monter le tout en un bulletin, comme dans une vraie rédaction radio (à l’exception de la diffusion en direct).

Bulletin de Thibault et Varun:

Bulletin de Ashley et Mandira:

Les articles de nos étudiants autour du festival Île Courts 2017

Voici les articles et vidéos produits par les étudiants de Journalisme et Communication qui ont été publiés par le magazine culturel Kozé dans le cadre de l’atelier Blog Me If You Can et du festival Île Courts 2017:

Son, lumière, caméra et… Coupez ! Par Davina Soopramanien, Tessa Marguerite et Daniella Jolicœur.

Look dan boîte : scénario en trois mots Par Thibault François, Eva Didier, Divya Nadhoo et Kristy Tuyau.

Coup de foudre pour « Fim Zekler » Par Mehryne Annooar, Dooshani Seewoolall, Nivesha Chetamun et Agnes Esther.

Mangroves in Mauritius: Misguided Efforts and Lacklustre Results

Mangroves are well-known for their environmental benefits and yet it seems as though efforts to propagate them have known little success. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) many small islands like Mauritius and their environments face great survival risks. With global warming getting progressively worse by the year, the effects of climate change have become an issue we can no longer ignore. The time now, as scientists and Mauritian authorities alike have stressed, is to make the protection of our environment a priority.

Mangroves are, according to the NASA, “among the most biologically important ecosystems on the planet”. On top of preventing soil erosion, the Journal of Coastal Development affirm that these also provide natural habitats, feeding-places and nurseries for marine species. They filter water and allow fish, especially juveniles, to thrive. Efforts to protect mangroves have been made. The launch of the Mangroves Protection Programme, and legislation like the Fisheries and Marine Resources Act of 1998 which protect mangroves are proof of goodwill.

And yet, we cannot really boast about great results. One of the causes of this is inadequate planting of mangroves. Mangroves thrive in murky waters; they are wetland plants. And while mangrove forests have been re-planted near the shore in areas like Case Noyale, other mangrove forests (or simply forests) in Grand Sable for instance have been planted in dry soil. According to marine scientist Mark Spalding from the University of Siena, this phenomenon which occurs around the world is a result of legal constraints. Oftentimes, especially in Mauritius, beaches are owned by private individuals and their property extend to the beach and even the shoreline. Authorities then have to fall back on whatever state-owned land is available. Yet, in the case of Grand Sable, it was a small association of local people who took on this endeavour.


Mangroves at Grand Sable. Photo Credits: Stories UNDP

The local association could not be contacted but Mark Spalding points out that in general, what happens is that people plant the wrong kind of mangrove in the wrong place and so the plants do not attain maturity, even if they grow to be saplings.

But when such simple mistakes are made, it does not help at all that the support for mangroves is not unilateral. “The mangroves are not always pretty to look at.” said one inhabitant, “Case Noyale is a touristic spot. When the tourist comes here, he wants to see the horizon with his family, but the mangroves are big trees, and it prevents them from enjoying the vista.”

Another inhabitant, Joseph, complained that during floods especially, a lot of waste got accumulated in the roots of the mangroves. The result was a dirty, littered shore which according to Joseph, could prevent tourists from visiting the region which is highly dependent on this particular sector of the economy.

Villagers from Case Noyale are not against mangroves for the sake of being against mangroves. They recognise the benefits offered by these, especially for the fishing industry since Case Noyale is also a fishing village. But faced with the short-term problems that affect their everyday life, a vocal few are starting to speak out about the issues they face. With the case for mangroves being already fragilised by at times misguided government efforts, NGOs are struggling to keep mangroves alive. The ADD (Association pour le Development Durable) reports having planted 100,000 mangrove trees over 10 hectares of coastal land. But their actions cannot lead to the expected results when people are still ill-educated about the importance of mangroves.

Mangrove seeds (known as propagules)

Mangrove seeds (known as propagules) to be planted

Even so, Mauritius cannot be said to be faring horribly. The authorities have already recognised the need for and the importance of mangroves. Misguided efforts can be corrected and awareness and afforestation programmes are in the works. Just last week, on Sunday the 21st of May, the Plaine Verte Youth Centre in collaboration with the Roches Noires Youth Centre set up an expedition for the youth where a message of awareness was spread. A project to replant mangroves was also scheduled but due to unfavourable weather conditions, it could not be carried out.

Aadilah Soobratty

Students assignments for Digital Journalism

Here are all the first assignments which were produced by the Journalism Yr 3 students for the module Digital Journalism this semester. Please bear in mind that this is a pedagogical exercise designed to help students produce reporting that combines data, video, audio, text etc. When teaching this module, I always find that the hardest part is to inculcate the notion that you have to have solid, verifiable data and that you need to process it first before jumping into interviews to avoid mere “he says, she says” journalism. Some have made some interesting efforts.

Public talk on data journalism


What can data do for you?
The power and practicality of data journalism: Inspiring examples from everyday basic news reporting all the way to interactive news apps.

  • Date and time:Tuesday 9th August at 10 a.m.
  • Venue: University of Mauritius – ELT2
  • Entrance: free and open to all

Anina Mumm is a science communication and digital media specialist at ScienceLink, a company she co-founded to help scientists connect with the world, particularly through the use of multi-media story-telling and other innovative digital tools. Anina is also the Chairperson of SciBraai, a proudly South African NPO dedicated to science journalism, communication and outreach, and she is an active member of the South African Science Journalists’ Association.

Ms Mumm will also conduct a special workshop for Journalism Yr 3 students on Tuesday 9th August which will be aimed at producing real data stories, followed by a half-day session on Thursday 18th August to designate the best student data stories. The public talk and workshop are sponsored by Mauritius Telecom.

Reportages des étudiants sur les selfies


Le premier selfie pris par l’Américain Robert Cornelius

Voici les derniers reportages des étudiants en Digital Journalism. Ils ont choisi de travailler sur les selfies:


Pour rappel, ils ont fait deux autres séries de reportages:

A noter qu’ il s’agit ici d’ exercices pédagogiques.