When Guinean media professionals lack the skills to report on the extractives industry, the local population, who generally rely on traditional news outlets for information, are ill-informed and fail to engage with companies and authorities on how best their resources should be managed. This is why training the next generation of journalists is critical in order to ensure that citizens are well informed and less vulnerable to exploitation by mining corporations.
At the Institut Superieur de l’Information et de la Communication (ISIC), there were no courses on the extractives industry. This resulted in a collective effort to expand the curriculum of the institution through the development of new modules. Students at ISIC collaborated with key persons from the National Assembly, Ministry of Higher Education, extractive industries, university staff, human rights organizations and the media to develop three modules entitled ‘’Extractive Industries’’, ‘’Democracy and Good Governance’’ and “Human Rights and Culture of Peace”. Experts from the extractive sectors including the Guinea chapter of Publish What You Pay (PWYP) led some of the courses. Through each module, the students were able to familiarize themselves with how mining firms operate, its impact on communities and the role of state institutions in building democracy. The holistic nature of these modules allow students to make links between different themes such as environmental policy practices, the mining value chain, human rights concepts, constitutional law, peace-building and conflict resolution mechanisms.
Most higher education institutions in the region do not provide opportunities for students to apply what they have learned and few are able to interact with the subjects of their studies. However, in order to better understand the impact of mining activities at the local level, the voices of the community members must be heard. For this reason, a field visit component was incorporated into the course with the aim of facilitating a better understanding of state institutions, mining sites and affected communities for the students.
Most often, mining corporations operate with state approval. Understanding the role of the state and its engagement in the mining sector is crucial when reporting about the grievances affected communities face. Through this course, students visited the National Assembly and attended the state opening of parliament for the first time. Discussions focused on the different functions of parliament such as the passage of various legislation and how parliamentarians are able to control the government’s actions through legislature. Students have also been able to sit in on budget sessions, allowing them to better grasp budget adoption procedures, budget allocation, and parliamentary debates.
Students have also had the opportunity to visit mining companies such as Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee’s (CBG) in northern Conakry. CBG, the country’s largest bauxite mining site, is partly state-owned and has been operating since 1973 with an exporting capacity of 15 million tons of bauxite. Through field visits, the students are privy to crucial information on the company’s operations, their contribution to the economy, and the impact of their operations on nearby communities. In addition, they got a firsthand exposure to mining activities through a guided tour of site, which including the train station – where the bauxite is transported out from the mine. They also get to experience what life is like for those residing in the nearby communities.
The field trips were memorable for the students. Mamadou Saidou Balde, one of the students particularly impressed by experience recalled that ‘‘the visit was an eye-opener to the various mining activities and processes. The meetings with CBG officials and communities were very informative, which helped build our knowledge of the sector’’.
Engaging with civil society organizations and local authorities on this issue is an integral part of the course. The students further gained insight into the corruption scandal associated with a Russian-owned bauxite company in Kindia and the payment of taxes for the development of the surrounding communities. In addition, they better familiarized themselves with the rights of mining communities, the environmental impact of mining, and the expropriation of lands from communities.
Looking ahead, a field visit to the Constitutional Court, the Provisional Commission on National Reconciliation and the Ministry of National Unity and Citizenship are planned. These trip will further help the students to familiarize themselves with the mandate and contribution of these institutions in consolidating democracy and national unity.
As a result of this initiative, some students are currently exploring the idea of creating an NGO aimed at promoting transparency in the extractives industry. Furthermore, the media NGO Action Mines Guinee (AMINES) has appointed a student from this course to lead the committee of its newly created Conseil des Etudiants pour la Promotion de la Transparence dans les Industries extractives (translated as the Student Committee to Promote Transparency in the Extractives Industry) at ISIC.
These students are part of a new generation of journalists that are being trained to use the power of information at their disposal to safeguard the wellbeing of communities, and to better equip citizens with knowledge of their rights. We believe that through this, the voices from these communities will be heard and their opinion on how their resources ought to be managed, considered.
By Abdoul Rahamane Diallo, OSIWA Guinea Program Coordinator
Jay peered at me from the burglary proofed window of Lango Lippaye Public School. You could feel his excitement. It ...