Since the first time coming here on site visit and touring Nkongsamba’s newest (and first) radio station we have known that it was something we would like to a be a part of. The fact that it was being staffed primarily by interns from ISMAM only made it all that much more alluring. The opportunity to partner with students on educational segments that they could then produce and record for wide spread distribution to the general public was a Peace Corps dream come true.
So, naturally, when we arrived here we wasted no time in talking to radio staff as well as other volunteers about our idea. All of the other PCVs in our area agreed it was a great project and something they would indeed want to be a part of as well. It wasn’t long then before we were invited in for a meeting with the radio director. Actually the meeting wasn’t originally to be with the director himself but rather someone under him who was an ISMAM alumnus. But, through a rather embarrassing mix up of translation, we ended up sitting down with the head of the radio instead. It was an awkward first few minutes as you can imagine he didn’t know who we were or why we were there, but in the end it turned out to be very good and he was extremely receptive to the idea. We were asked to write up a formal proposal outlining the plans and submit it back to his office the following week for review.
For those interested in the details of the plan I will quickly try to summarize our proposal. We plan to collaborate with radio staff and interns to create what we know of as public service announcements (PSA) in each other the four sectors that Nkongsamba has PCVs working in. The four sectors are health, agroforestry, English and community development. We would also have a brief segment outlining what it is that PCV do, why we are here in Nkongsamba, and how people could get in contact with us if they were interested in collaborating on future projects. PSAs would be ongoing radio segments on a wide range of topics from public health to environmental concerns and even some quick English lessons perhaps. The best part of all of this was that it would be 100% sustainable as we could train the staff and interns in a few months and then walk away and the project would keep going in our absence. Of course we would still be here for ongoing support and assistance for the remaining duration of our service, but it meets our number one priority here, which is ensuring the continuity of our work once we’re gone.
It came as a bit of a shock to us then when we found out that the radio station was shut down yesterday! We learned of this in passing conversation and in truth it wasn’t without good reasoning. The details behind the closure of the radio are a bit technical even for me to understand. It was an ongoing problem that everyone in town was aware of, since the creation of the radio station it had been taking over more and more of the air. Not because it was so great, which it was. But because somehow it was broadcasting its signal on more and more stations taking over and blocking out other existing stations including BBC Africa. It finally got so bad that the city had no choice but to shut it down until they could resolve the issue.
So, it is not the end for our grand idea but merely a very African sort of obstacle that we have to overcome. I do not know how long it will take for them to get the problem resolved and the radio back on the air. But, I assure you we are all very anxious and excited to see where it will go from here.