By Henry Uche, Lagos
Mr Ken Ike Okere was appointed as head of the National Broadcast Academy (NBA), the training arm of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) in Ikeja, Lagos, in the first quarter of the year.
A media expert, Okere was schooled in Nigeria and the United States and has degrees in Theater, Media communications & Journalism. He headed the South East Zonal Office and Lagos Zonal Office of Radio Nigeria, among others. He is an author and multiple award winner, domestically and international level. He is the first professional from the media space to head the NBA.
In this interview with Daily Sun, he tells us about innovative measures, his style of leadership and what he intends to do differently as the director of the Institution and as a media expert.
What kind of NBA did you inherit?
The National Broadcast Academy (NBA) in Lagos was initially established as the Radio Nigeria Training School to cater to the training needs of Radio Nigeria personnel. As its fame grew, there was great demand from the whole West African sub-region to have it train current and aspiring broadcasters, broadcast journalists and broadcast engineers. So, the school opened its doors to other stations and then it metamorphosed in recent years into an academy for every qualified person desirous of becoming a professional in broadcasting. The NBA has a solid reputation for professional and rigorous training and its alumni and faculty are often among the legends of the industry. Even though some of the infrastructure is aged, after 60 years of existence the NBA that I am inheriting is still well regarded in the industry as an important part of the broadcasting industry. The numbers and diversity of our students, who come from all parts of the country, demonstrate this.
Are you planning to introduce new courses?
Yes. We plan to have a team of industry experts review and upgrade the curriculum in order to keep up with modern trends in digital broadcasting. With this process, new courses would be added. The process would also involve audience research that would help us get significant input from broadcast managers, our alumni, and prospective students, about the kind of courses they would like to see offered by the NBA.
Any plan to get NBA accredited by National Board for Technical Education (NBTE)?
We are first and foremost a professional training and certification institute and many broadcast stations send their staff to us because they trust the content and thoroughness of our training. They are also aware of our 60+ years of experience. So, we are already the industry leader. What we’ll need accreditation for are any National Diploma courses that we may wish to offer in the future. This latter will be part of the issues we will look at as we make plans to reposition the NBA.
NBA’s library and medical department lack modern books and drugs, respectively. How do you intend to address this problem?
The library, medical clinic and indeed all the departments of the NBA are going to be included in the strategic repositioning that we need to undertake.
Given your versatility, what do you intend to give to the NBA?
Thanks. I have been fortunate to have garnered experience in most parts of the media industry – print, broadcast, online, corporate communications, and media management – both here and abroad. So, hopefully, this background would be brought to bear on this new assignment.
Over the years, the NBA community has not really been taken seriously by the Federal Government, particularly in regards to funding, which is evident in the poor management and administration of the school over the years. Now you are here as an experienced media expert to head NBA for the first time, there are high hopes. Tell us, what are your plans (short, medium and long term)?
Funding is important, but proper planning is the first step. In the repositioning plan, we will work with our boss, the DG of FRCN, to figure out a way out of the funding constraints. The strategic vision is still in development, but it will surely include a focus on online and digital infrastructure aimed at online training and enhanced communications; more flexible learning options and upgraded content; and an improved learning environment.
Many Nigerians do not see enough reasons to enrol for courses in the NBA because they do not see sufficient facilities (and probably enough human resources) to make an impact. What do you think could be done, as a communications expert, to restore the lost hope and make the Academy the go-to institution for training media professionals?
The NBA gets quite a lot of interest for a professional training institute. Of course, we can do better. The COVID-19 pandemic affected enrollment in the NBA, just as it did with many schools that were not prepared for online education. If we are able to execute our plans, then enrollment would pick up and surpass previous thresholds.
Looking at the physical environment [of the Academy], it’s very clear the structures are dilapidated, some senior officers like HODs have no befitting offices, the environment is unkempt, some lecture rooms are not conducive for learning, the library and medical section need to be upgraded. What can you do with your authority to make teaching and learning conducive?
The repositioning plan would affect all these areas positively. Once we can solve the thorny issue of funding, all these problems will be a thing of the past. As earlier stated, we will work with the office of the DG FRCN to find innovative solutions to these issues.
Many ex-students are looking for opportunities to contribute to the school; do you have an alumni association?
Yes, there is an alumni association, though fledgling. We will meet with them and other stakeholders. We will seek novel ways to get the support we need for this national institution.
In précis, what is your mission and vision as Director?
The NBA was established to develop and sustain a culture of raising professionals for the broadcast industry. That will be our focus, and we shall achieve that mandate.