Let us start today’s post with my ultimate hobby – poetry. The following poem, Ndoto Zaruka (Dreams Do Fly) summarises what I want to say:
Flying they do dreams I testify
They reach so quick where you desire
As opened as a book in front of you they stay
Never stop dreaming for dreams do lastly come true
So high they fly and forward they go
Then for you they wait till you are there
In case you are late, they keep reminding you:
“Go, go right now, all you want will be!”
Over the last two decades, I have been practicing journalism in one way or the other. From writing for newspapers to photographing for my sites, from blogging for personal online diaries to broadcasting on international media.
Actually, I started being involved in journalism before I became a graduated journalist. By graduated here, I mean the one who has gone to college to earn a certificate for a certain profession. I did so in 2006, eight years after my first story appeared on a weekly newspaper, five years after having already gained a name as a columnist on some renown Swahili newspapers.
When I went to join the college for a degree in Mass Communication in Dar es Salaam, it was not exactly for me. It was rather for those who would doubt my talent in journalism. And for that I regret. I shouldn’t have done that for it is not a university degree that made a journalist out of me. I had been a trained journalist way back in my home village even before I ever set my ink on any newspaper or publish any article or produce any radio program.
That said, I do not at all mean to degrade the efforts by my college, my lecturers and fellow students. No! I do actually appreciate everything and I admit to have been upgraded in my hobby-turned-profession. I would not be to the standards I am today, if my college did not give me a chance to learn from the experienced practitioners in the field, among them the legend Godwin Gondwe, Madam Nacy Mwendamseke, Mr. Mdegellah, Mr. Mfugale and the rest.
Journalism and I, the Old Pals
I just want to emphasise the fact that journalism was my childhood dream, with which I started to live from the very early years of my life. I remember when I was at Standard Eight, we were taught the “Will Tense” by our English teacher, Mr. Masoud Msabbah, and when asked what I would be after finishing my school, I wrote: “I will be a reporter.”
By the time, these journalism jargons such as reporter, correspondent, news anchor and others were not familiar to me. For me, a very definition of journalism were the voices I heard from international broadcasters such BBC from London and Deutsche Welle from Cologne. I was listening also to Redio Sauti ya Umma from Tehran, All Indian Radio from New Delhi and Radio Cairo from Egypt. All these were sending their programs in my mother tongue, Kiswahili.
My father was among the lucky few, who owned a radio and happened to be interested in the world events. At our time, listening to radio was among the few artificial edutainments that existed and in his small duka, people were always gathering to both learn and enjoy the happenings through the waves.
As a child who believed my father was a super hero, I always wanted to please him. Seeing him listening intensively to the voices coming from afar, I think, I was feeling a little jealousy. I wanted my old man to be proudly listening to me through his radio as I knew he envied those voices he heard all the way from the world cities.
At Standard Three when I was just 8 years old, I was already a member of Mama na Mwana, a Radio Tanzania Dar es Salaam’s Children Program by Sarah Dumba. At 10, when I was in Standard Five and the year my sister was married, I was already writing to and receiving Sauti ya Umma newsletters from Tehran and Deutsch: Warum Nicht? books from Cologne through our Post Office Box 86, Wete – Pemba. Therefore, I started to learn German language through Deutsche Welle more than ten years before I was enrolled to the Institute of Kiswahili and Foreign Languages in 1996, where I majored in the language.
Apart from that, our small duka was selling small portions of tea leaves, sugar, some basic medicines and the like which we wrapped them using old newspapers. Uhuru, Mzalendo and Mfanyakazi from Mainland Tanzania, Taifa Leo from Kenya, not to mention those from Asia and the Gulf which were written in either Arabic or Indian languages, were very common in our house.
From foreign papers, I was amused with world images, photos, and cartoons and from Swahili papers, I learned to read by the help of my sister Fatma even before I went to school. I was able to recite poems from these papers at a very small age, and I believe they contributed much to the making of an international award-winning poet out of a village boy.
Always Find Your Way Back
Of course, in the course of life, there were some times when I lost track in following my dreams. But even when lost in wilderness, there would be always an event that would turn me back to journalism. For example, in 1998, I was forced to postpone my studies at the then Institute of Kiswahili and Foreign Languages in Zanzibar and moved to Dodoma to work at a photo studio. This was a super blow to my educational ambitions and so to my dreams, but instead it turned out to be a bless in disguise, as within photo printing, I learnt photography and added to my urge for journalism.
When I left there a year later to return to my studies, I was already a photographer and directly went to register at the Department for Information as a freelancer photojournalist. From then on, I used my camera to capture every moment that passed, every event that happened – from political rallies to weddings, seminars to religious gatherings.
To shorten this long story, I find it important to remind those young people who happen to dream for something in life that they must keep dreaming. I do not speak as a successful international journalist, because I am not. But I am, by any standard, a 41 year old man who has been trying to follow his childhood dreams ever since and who, despite many ups and downs, has never stopped to dream.