Launch of the UNESWA Radio American Voices Project

The US Ambassador, the Vice Chancellor and other dignitaries observing proceedings at the

UNESWA Radio Station

KWALUSENI – On Wednesday 31 March 2021, the Kwaluseni Campus was filled with excitement as the UNESWA Radio American voices project was being launched at the New Wing, Kwaluseni.  The guest of honour was Her Excellency, Jeanne Maloney, U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Eswatini.  The day began with a tour of the UNESWA Radio Station by the Ambassador, Vice Chancellor, Professor Justice Thwala, Director of Media Development, Mr Phesheya Dube, other dignitaries and UNESWA Management.

In his welcome remarks, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Justice Thwala extended a special word of welcome to the new American Ambassador, Her Excellency Jeanne Maloney. He noted that UNESWA Radio American Voices Project was not the first project in the University to receive the support of the American Government.  There have been others from other departments and faculties for which the University was grateful.

The Vice Chancellor noted that the expected outcome of the project was the strengthening of the programme production and critical thinking skills of students within the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication. “As an institution we owe our gratitude to the US Embassy’s Public Affairs Section, which has enabled UNESWA to be the beneficiary of funding to implement the project.” The Vice Chancellor noted that “it is a highly relevant project for us, especially now during a period dominated by the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic, which has derailed our teaching and learning activities here at UNESWA and challenged UNESWA to reflect and adapt teaching methods from the conventional face-to-face mode of teaching.

Professor Thwala expressed hope that the campus radio station would be a tool that can assist the University in teaching and learning while also disseminating information about the virus and create a platform for students to craft solutions for the various challenges they face.  “I appreciate that the project will expose them to educational, health, socio-economic and cultural issues through programming developed by students – for students while working on the campus radio,” he mentioned.

The Vice Chancellor also acknowledged the role of the Eswatini Government through the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in driving the development of the relevant legislative and policy framework for the broadcasting sector. He mentioned that the Eswatini Communications Commission licensed the station and also provided technical training to the JMC staff.  The VC also acknowledged other stakeholders that had assisted the Department such as UNESCO through its International Programme for the Development of Communication; Voice of the Church; Eswatini Broadcasting and Information Service; and Eswatini Community Multi Media network. He also expressed hope that the station would evolve in the future to become a radio academy for the training and up-skilling of aspiring and professional radio broadcasters in the country.

The Vice Chancellor live on air, making his remarks on the Campus Radio

Her Excellency, Ambassador Jeanne Maloney first expressed her excitement to be part of the launch of the “American Voices radio programme on UNESWA FM 88.2 – the newest radio station in Eswatini!”  The Ambassador noted that “young people deserve to have their voices heard and to have a forum dedicated to their issues.  They deserve to have a content directed especially toward them that talk about issues of interest to them.”

She mentioned that the goal of the American Voices radio was to share American culture and information with young people in Eswatini. It will also offer a window into America and she mentioned topics that the programme would offer such as;

  • American culture and history;
  • Current affairs topics of interest, such World AIDS Day or Women’s History Month;
  • Media literacy to help students understand how to identify and disregard dis and miss information;
  • Studying in the U.S. through Education USA Advisors;
  • Accessing exchange programme opportunities offered by the US Embassy such as Fulbright, the YALI Mandela Washington Fellowship, and Pan African Youth Leadership programmes; and more.

In conclusion she thanked UNESWA, students and everyone “who is putting their heart and soul into building this radio station and the American Voices programme. I am proud of the U.S. Embassy has helped bring this dream to fruition, and I am watching to see the American Voices programme and other grow wings and take flight.”

Her Excellency, Jeanne Maloney, the U.S. Ambassador to the Kigndom of Eswatini making remarks

during her visit at the UNESWA Radio station

Giving the overview of the project was the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Professor Francis Rakotsoane. He mentioned that the project was one of the milestones of the Faculty in response to the challenges of the time. The project would also fulfil the objective of the Faculty to produce students who have done a hands-on practical component of broadcasting and television.  The Department of Journalism and Mass Communication was granted a licence in August 2019. He also mentioned that the American Voices Project would run for two years duration. “Over three decades, the department through the studio has been imparting skills to students.” He mentioned that the next phase of the project would be the development of projects to be broadcast by the youth. On behalf of the Faculty he thanked Her Excellency the Ambassador and UNESCO for their contribution. The Dean pledged that the studio would be a real platform for youth empowerment in broadcasting.

Speaking on behalf of the Ministry for ICT was the Director of Information and Media Development, Mr Phesheya Dube who thanked the United States through the Embassy of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the generous donation of over E280,000 which went towards the purchase of equipment for the UNESWA Campus radio.  “I am reliably informed that the two countries have enjoyed a cordial relationship which, to date, is as old as half a century, and still going strong.” He noted that the Ministry was excited with the UNESWA Radio American Voices Project which would expose students to the real world of presenting, production and programming and also afford students and the youth in general access to American cultural content. Mr Dube mentioned that the Eswatini Communications Commission issued a licence to the University of Eswatini to enable the institution and students to develop practical skills in broadcasting. He encouraged the University to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the dynamism of radio to impart knowledge during the COVID-19 era.  “Government, however, cannot over-emphasize the importance of respect of the responsibility that comes with the privilege of ownership of such a licence as has been given to this institution.  Strict adherence to Broadcasting Guidelines will be enforced to ensure compliance to expectations of the Regulator.”

JMC students live on air, during the dignitaries visit of  of the Radio station

The U.S. Ambassador, and her Public Affairs Officer, Stephanie cutting the plaque ribbon ribbon cutting the signage of the project

In performing the vote of thanks, Professor Henry Gadaga thanked the U.S., a dependable friend of the Kingdom of Eswatini.  He mentioned that the relationship of the U.S. and Eswatini has benefitted the University in a number of ways.  He thanked the Embassy for the trust it has in the University.  Professor Gadaga mentioned that the University was expecting good things from this facility and pledged that the University would safeguard the station. He expressed excitement that voices of University of Eswatini students would be heard in the U.S.  The Pro Vice Chancellor also thanked members of staff for supporting the students.  Professor Gadaga also thanked Stephanie Sandoval, the Public Affairs Officer for her role in making the project a success.

The two-year project was funded by the American Embassy for over US$20,000, the bulk of which was used to purchase broadcast transmission equipment that has been installed at the UNESWA campus radio studio.

Dean of the Faculty of Humanities making his remarks on the overview of the whole project,

Professor Francis Rakotsoane