Primedia grooms SA’s ‘disadvantaged’ talent for media

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By Tumi Rakuba

The Primedia Scholarship has succeeded in grooming some of South Africa’s previously disadvantaged students for key jobs in the local media industry, according to its recipients and sponsors.

The scholarship, introduced about five years ago, has been sponsoring students from disadvantaged backgrounds who study the Postgraduate Diploma in Media Management (PDMM) run by Rhodes University’s Sol Plaatje Institute for Media Leadership.

The scholarship covers tuition, accommodation and meals in one of Rhodes University’s postgraduate residences, course materials and books, a monthly subsistence allowance, medical insurance, travel costs home, and the mid-year media management internship costs.

With the help of the scholarship, great talent has been groomed through the help of the PDMM course. This includes former Primedia scholarship recipient Sithandwa Ngwetsheni, who is making a mark as the content producer for LeadSA, a non-profit organisation which is part of Primedia in Cape Town.

She said in an interview recently: “The scholarship introduced me to a world of connections and opportunities. All I had to do was to work hard and prove that I was deserving to be part of the Primedia family.”

The concept of the Primedia scholarship was formed when the Director of Sol Plaatje Institute, Francis Mdlongwa, approached the CEO of Primedia Group Limited, Kuben Pillay, and the Executive Director of Primedia, Jabulani Mahange. The conversation regarding the scholarship centred on choosing candidates who had something exciting to add to the media industry by doing the PDMM course.

The scholarship is specifically for previously disadvantaged candidates such as blacks, Coloureds and Indians primarily because there is a need for these people as sector specialists in South Africa and also have suitable qualifications to back them.

This year marks the first time a male candidate has been chosen for the scholarship, previously dominated by females. Dumisani Mthethwa is this year’s male scholar. “I feel proud and positive for all the achievements I have that opened the way into this female- dominated scholarship,” he said.

The media industry is progressing at a fast pace and the need for people who are qualified to head managerial positions is evident. “We have a bias towards radio because that is the industry we are in,” Kuban Pillay noted. “We saw that there was a lack of skills in radio management, particularly of people who understand the running of an entire organization.”

The scholarship recognizes that the PDMM course, which offers an intensive, full-time year of study for recent graduates and working professionals, will prove to be beneficial not only to media organizations but to South Africa as a whole.

“There is a visible need in South Africa for young people to be of influence in government and to infiltrate spaces where change is needed,” Pillay said.  

Mahange commented: “The different modules of the PDMM being taught by the SPI are very relevant to the media landscape today, more especially in the change of direction that South Africa is taking with regards to digital media.”

The PDDM course encourages students to think as media managers when tackling tough management topics and scenarios that take place in the real world.

An example is of media managers having to adapt to new ways of producing media content and embracing digital media as one of the ways to reach larger audiences and how these audiences could be ‘monetized’ for both profitability and sustainability.

The core of the course – the only formal media management qualification in Africa and the developing world -- is to bring out people who think innovatively and who challenge the status quo. The course is pegged at the honours degree-level under South Africa’s Qualifications Framework.

In Pillay’s words: “We do not want people to be boxed but we want media practitioners, where you are in careers that don’t limit you. This course offers you that.”

The scholarship also benefits recipients by exposing them to Primedia and, in return, it gives Primedia the edge of having young people with finesse working for them. Not all scholarship candidates are chosen to be part of Primedia after completing the PDMM, but only those who prove themselves as assets to the organization.  

Former Primedia scholarship recipient Neo Koza, who now works for Primedia in Johannesburg, said the scholarship and the PDMM were stepping stones in one’s career because the real test in life still lay in doing the actual job.

Source:  Sol Plaatje Institute

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