27 October 2016

Rwanda: Mopas Film Academy - Inspiring Girls to Take on ICT-Related Courses

Photo: Dennis Agaba/New Times
Trainers look on as a student demostrates her videography skills.
opinion

Jean Claude Niyibiza has always had a dream; to see more girls take on Information and Communication Technology (ICT), especially in the film industry. According to Niyibiza, film production, a field that has rarely been tapped into by girls, is the reason he started Mopas Film Academy.

Niyibiza says he has no doubt that girls can succeed in this field and sustainable and inclusive development can only be achieved if girls and women tackle any field, including the ones they have traditionally deemed too difficult.

"I wanted to do something for girls because I know their potential since I have worked with them before under the 'Adolescent Girls Initiative'. I had the chance to see the challenges they went through and, most importantly, how they overcame them," he says.

Niyibiza wishes that girls would fully understand their potential and put it to use, instead of opting for less demanding and softer tasks.

"I do not want girls to only opt for weaving, tailoring or catering. Those are incredible jobs but they also need to join other fields like ICT because I believe they can excel there too," he says.

The academy, which started in 2012, was originally a media production company focusing on documentary films, TV and radio programmes and adverts, but later, offered more packages.

To ensure the academy's success, Niyibiza, who holds a Bachelor's degree in Journalism and Communication, had to exert his skills on the ground.

He explains that the company reached a point where more professionals were required and, instead of hiring experts, he thought it was wise to groom personnel from the grassroots level.

He says, "We reached a level where we needed more professionals on aboard, so instead of getting them from neighbouring countries like Kenya, we decided to build our school to help the girls and locals with interest at the same time."

The three-month programme equips girls with advanced skills in video production and they also have a chance to use the latest technology in this area.

The idea of this opportunity also stemmed from the fact Niyibizi wanted to support the Government's policy of job creation through technical and vocational skills.

In addition, the HeForShe campaign inspired him to take the step to realise his dream.

"When the HeForShe programme started, we were sensitised and asked to sign up but we wanted more than just that. The President (Paul Kagame) is committed to increasing the number of girls in ICT and we want to support him," he says.

Niyibiza says that seeing girls and women suffer breaks his heart. "I always feel pity seeing young girls suffer, for instance when they drop out of school and end up in prostitution yet a lot of great things can be achieved in their lives."

At the moment, the academy has seven girls but is targeting at least 300. They are set to secure students' internships from different media houses.

"We want to see the girls grow because this will, in turn, help society at large. I believe that when you support young women you support the whole society," Niyibizi adds.

Lievain Ruchyaha, the production manager at the academy, says they offer different programmes such as video production, camera use, photo editing, lighting and the usage of different software.

The girls are also taught animation production, music production, among others.

The intention is to help their students pave their own way in the creative industry, he adds. "We train some boys too but our focus is on girls. We have girls we get from different NGO's and they are trained free of charge, the ones who come and join pay the required amount but they are given a 20 per cent discount."

Rucyaha adds that some of their future plans involve increasing the number of girls in the academy and improving the quality of education offered. "That's why they are signing MOUs (Memorandum of Understandings) with different organisations like New York Film Academy, Eicar International Film, and TV School of Paris."

Cedric Hakizayezu, one of the trainers, says that girls are picking up quite well, adding that they have the passion to learn and succeed in the industry.

Hakizayezu observed that girls sometimes have little belief in themselves and don't think that they can actually do some things. "Some may think that these kinds of skills are meant for boys but that's not it. Some girls started out with this kind of mentality but, along the way, they started feeling comfortable and they are actually doing it."

He adds: "And when they do, they actually do it better than the boys; they, first of all, have the passion, they are actually getting there faster than I thought."

Hakizayezu calls upon other girls to join the creative industry because the field, he says, is not for boys only, but for anyone who has a passion for it.

What the beneficiaries say

Chantal Mutesi is a 24-year-old student at Mopas. Looking at the skills and knowledge she possesses in photography, you can't help but wonder how she could have only joined the school three weeks ago.

"I got to know about the school during Expo 2016 and, looking at the range of the skills the school was offering, I became interested and enrolled a few months later. I knew that by joining the school, I was taking one step towards launching a film career, which has always been my dream," Mutesi explains.

The high school graduate adds: "I always believed that even girls can make the most out of a career in ICT, and the few weeks I have spent at Mopas have shown me that it is possible. I'm now acquainted with lighting, taking advanced pictures, shooting a video, and I'm taking a step towards editing videos; thanks to our innovative instructors," she explains.

Mutesi is a passionate student who wishes to settle for a career in electronic media as a TV anchor. She believes that the firsthand skills and knowledge she is gaining from the film school will be a stepping stone for her dream career.

"My goal to become an actress in the near future sparked my decision to join the film school," says Yvonne Uwingabire, a 25-year-old motion graphics enthusiast.

Uwingabire says that in order to be the excellent actress she envisions in the future, firsthand skills, enlightenment and acquaintances with film production are paramount.

"Any dream can fall short in the absence of experience and essential skills, and it is with this consideration that I enrolled in the film school to broaden my scope, and plan for my future.

"A few weeks since I joined the school, I can adjust camera lights, shoot a video, edit and take impressive pictures, and do much more in motion graphics," Uwingabire explains.

After graduation, Uwingabire's goal is to train and inspire fellow girls to believe in themselves, embrace firsthand skills, and work hard towards being self-reliant.

Besides enrolling for a media production course, Uwingabire is also a third-year university student, pursuing a Bachelor's degree in marketing, at the University of Rwanda.

Both Mutesi and Uwingabire wish to be self-employed and use their hands-on skills to create employment opportunities for themselves and their peers.

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