Eka received around 60 applications for the Azaad Bol Course on Community Media & Journalism Course. Quite a few had expected this to be a completely online course. 30 applications were selected for interviews. 28 participants appeared for the interviews which were conducted in three phases. The interview panel was graced by senior journalist from NewsClick, Sravani Sarkar; Ajit Singh from Samavesh, Satyendra Pandey from Progressive Writers’ Association (PWA), Vijay Kumar from CPI (ML) Red Star. Course Coordinator Sachin Shrivastav and Seema Kurup from Eka were on the panel as observers.

Finally 20 participants from a range of backgrounds including young muslim women and men, dalit artists, young ground reporters from the web media, artisans from a skills training unit for women, COVID warriors and citizenship rights activists. All are from hindi speaking and writing backgrounds. The most common reason for wanting to enroll in the course included:

1. Dissatisfied with the representation of issues in mainstream media leaving out ground realities, media engaging in distortion of facts, biased journalism and the lack of credibility.
2. A strong need for self expression, for voicing issues, for bringing people’s issues into mainstream discourse
3. Need to learn writing, reporting and communication skills
4. A space for engaging with experts from the field of journalism
5. Setting up their own alternative evidence and fact based media platforms

The panel members who have long years of experience in mainstream reporting, alternative media, progressive writing and mass communication engaged with the participants to understand their aspirations and expectations from the course.

The class formally began on the 4th with an orientation session of four hours.

3 participants dropped out citing distance and covid considerations. The rest of the class continues with a mix of students from diverse backgrounds including dalits, muslims and tribals.

During the orientation we carried out some participatory exercises to:

1. formally introduce the class and facilitators to each other
2. understand participant expectations from the course
3. match course objectives with the expectations
4. set group norms for smooth functioning
5. get introduced to the course content and schedule, including the teaching faculty

The course now is a mix of online and real time, live sessions with due precautions taken for COVID.

The Course is a truly community supported initiative:

1. Books/publications by organizations – Muskan, Vikas Samvad, PWA and BGVS.
2. The Course library has many contributions from a range of organization/group publications from across states.
3. Friends, well wishers of Eka and organizations like BGVS and Sukhibhawa Foundation sponsored some deserving students who were unable to pay fees.
4. Space is provided by Insaani Biradari and CPI for contact classes
5. Tea, drinking water, stationery are supported by friends
6. Hunar unit from Eka provided resource kits of bags, handmade notebooks and masks at subsidized costs
7. Sana from Parinde group volunteered her time and design ideas to the course outreach process.
8. Most importantly, the resource people for the course share their time and expertise with the class on a honorary basis.

The entire team of Eka including Course Coordinator Sachin, Sajana Jayaraj – Design Expert, Community Team Lead – Abdul and Seema volunteer their time in the course. Young person Anam, has kindly consented to volunteer her time to assist the course as support staff. Aurangzeb is a strong pillar of support whizzing around on his bike to ensure course preparations.

The course was conceptualized jointly with support and guidance from Rakesh Diwan, Sachin Jain, Nasiruddin, Sajana Jayaraj, Javed, Upasana, Ajit Singh, Satyendra Pandey and Vijay Sen. Many senior journalists and writers have extended their thought support in our pre-course, module design process.  We are moving ahead with all these pillars of strength.

Hope we succeed in creating a group of communicators with skills, knowledge and the right approach to ground reporting.

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