Simon Musasizi is a former Ugandan journalist who had a stint with The Observer newspaper. He is now based and works in France where he relocated with his family after his wife Caroline was transferred to the head office of her company Total SA. We reached out to him and he spoke about life as a stay home dad taking care of the children while his wife worked, getting a scholarship to study his Masters degree in global journalism and working with UNESCO.
Watchdog: Simon, you did a disappearance act on many of your friends in the media industry, only to realize you are in Europe without good-byes, bring us up to speed what you’ve been up to?
Simon Musasizi: Hahaha. You call it a disappearance! Well, I had two send-off parties: one in Kamwokya and another in Bukoto. I have forgotten the name of the bars. My family relocated here in August 2016, following my wife being posted at the Total headquarters in Paris. Because we had children, I had to accompany her and for the first year, I was more like a stay home father and learning French.
Watchdog: It’s great to know you were helping out with the kids, and as you know it’s kind of un-Ugandan. Share with us your experience as a stay home dad.
Simon Musasizi: Previously, I thought it would be easier to find a job to supplement our income, but I realized parenthood here is a full time job. If you have young children, as we did, one parent is expected to be home as the other works. My schedule was always busy: weekly school meetings -here a parent is like a teacher. You get involved in everything. Then since children here aren’t on ‘free range’, you have to create time to take them to parks.
I also learnt cooking and my daughters would praise me that am the best cook. But to be sincere, I was the worst. They just kept cheering me to gain confidence.
Simon Musasizi: So, after one year, I had gotten used to the routine and system. I wanted to go back to school but with an English university because my French wasn’t there yet. One, because I was staying home and my children went to a British international school. So, we continued talking in English at home, which didn’t help me a lot to learn French. I would go to Alliance Francaise to learn French but return home to speak English. So, it wasn’t helping. It is then that the former Ambassador of Uganda to France HE Nimisha Mandhvani told me about the American University of Paris. The university president, who is her friend, told her about scholarships for journalism students. So, she gave me the president’s email address and asked me to write to her. I did. Unfortunately, she responded saying the scholarships were for undergrads.
Watchdog: That must have been frustrating.
Simon Musasizi: I was frustrated but inside me something told me to check the University website and see if they have Graduate programs. That’s how I learnt of this course, MA in Global Communications. I did apply and I was admitted. But when they sent me the fees structures, I almost collapsed. My plan was to try and convince my wife’s company to contribute to my tuition because the company has arrangements to help their employees’ spouses resettle. However, about 50,000 Euros was excessively high to get my wife’s company involved.
Watchdog: I can imagine. What did you do?
Simon Musasizi: Again, it is a long story, but I remember I had given up. We had actually returned to Uganda for holidays. The university had sent me several reminders to pay up to secure my place, but with no response from me. I had resigned and counted it a loss. One week to the start of the university, I was in Kampala running around the city when I saw an email come from the university accounts office that they I had gotten a scholarship from the Center for the Study of International Communications (CECI). I was so excited! CECI is nonprofit organization established in 1998 to provide financial support to students from developing countries. One of its founders, Lee Huebner, is a board member of the Nation Media Group and former Publisher and CEO of the International Herald Tribune, now Airlie Professor of Media and Public Affairs at the George Washington University.
Watchdog: A sort of miracle
Simon Musasizi: From my understanding, the university President because of her friendship with Nimisha recommended my name to the scholarship board.
Watchdog: Congratulations on the achievement of completing your MA in global communications. Tell us more about your school times in Paris and what you hope to do with this new qualification.
Simon Musasizi: AUP is such a multicultural university, with students from all over the world and so many cultural programs. I tracked Development Communications and with my background in reporting on heritage and conservation issues, I am looking forward to further pursuing the same path. Right now, I am interning in the right place, with UNESCO, to be specific the Culture Sector and with the Africa Unit of the World Heritage Centre. This has widened my knowledge of heritage issues.
Watchdog: Anything special Ugandan media can learn from your exposure?
Simon Musasizi: I wouldn’t call it special, however, if I am to return to active journalism, I would question every word that I write because journalism is a discourse. While doing my thesis, which is a discourse analysis of the Daily Monitor and The New Vision on how they covered Busoga for the period between 2010-2016, made me reflect on what we write, how we write it, who we choose to speak to, how we frame issues, etc. The research, which will be published by the university library, examines how the media in Uganda continues to reinforce ethno-cultural stereotypes and labeling inherited from the British colonial masters.
Watchdog: As a former media practitioner in Uganda, what are your concerns about the media landscape in Uganda today?
Simon Musasizi: The media landscape in Uganda raises mixed reactions. However, overall, given ongoing events, it feels like a dimming light for the media. It feels like ‘real journalism’ has been shut.
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