July 3, 2008

In-Class Interview

Posted in Pro-seminar assignments at 12:48 pm by shhville

Mustapha S. hates to fly. “We’ve had so many air crashes in my country,” he says. Wearing a green Harvard baseball cap and a brightly printed shirt, he says that he hardly slept during the sixteen hours it took him to fly here from Nigeria because he was so nervous. “I’ve lost so many friends in air crashes.”

Mustapha, 47, speaks so softly that he can barely be heard over the commotion of the class. He rarely makes eye contact and never loses the hint of a smile around his mouth. A chemistry major in college at Ahmadu Bello University, he received his graduate degree in shipping technology at Maritime Academy of Nigeria and now works as a journalist for ThisDay, a Nigerian newspaper with the tagline, “African views on global news.” He saved for two years to come to Harvard for an eight-week journalism pro-seminar, leaving behind his wife, who works as an immigration official, and five children, ages nine to nineteen.

When asked why he made this trip, he looks at the wall behind me and begins by saying that he wants to sharpen his journalistic skills and improve his career. He will receive higher pay, he says, and more respect if he completes this course. He says that Harvard, in particular, is considered very prestigious and that the newspaper industry in Nigeria is not suffering or going through a rapid technological change the way it is in the United States. There are plenty of advertisers for the more than ten national papers in the country, which are all thriving.

Then, in a voice so quiet that I must ask him to repeat himself, he says that he wants to start his own paper and be a “true journalist.” When asked what this means, he says that most of the national papers in Nigeria primarily cover money and politics and that important issues such as poverty, hunger, and corruption, are largely ignored. He wants to “give voice to the voiceless” by choosing investigative stories for his newspaper that highlight these issues. What was it that caused him to choose this path? He shrugs and looks at the floor. “I just don’t like injustice.”

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4 Comments »

  1. Jenny said,

    I’m watching this class from Germany and the camera is usually pointed in your corner of the room so I’ve had the time to wonder who you guys are. Mustapha’s story is incredible! Kudos for writing such a great profile! I also had fun reading your About Me section and Penny is too cute!

  2. shhville said,

    Hi – thanks for your kind comment. I just realized recently that I am actually on camera in the class. I was startled to find that out! I think it’s great that you’re watching from so far away. Isn’t distance education amazing??

  3. Jenny said,

    hey, just checked out your ‘other’ blog. It’s hysterical. HYSTERICAL!

  4. Juinitef said,

    Tahnks for posting


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