Why school newspapers should be encouraged

Design: Afrin Tarannum

Apart from the rumour that our school was going to publish a yearbook all the way back in 2016, I have no recollection of ever experiencing school journalism first-hand. The same can be said about most schools – some do the bare minimum of the yearbook and even fewer have a weekly or monthly publication about recent events and achievements of the school. Sadly, none qualify as real examples of journalism in schools.

I recently participated in an online summer camp this year and came across many high school students from the US. As they discussed their extracurricular commitments, I realised that school journalism is a huge concept in American institutions. Even the most underfunded, understaffed school is very likely to at least have a proper webzine.

From the students' perspective, journalism is a great way to develop crucial skills needed to succeed in the real world – the practice in general makes students polish their writing skills, while the more opinion-oriented pieces require them to develop critical and analytical thinking skills.

Moreover, as students will pursue on-campus stories affecting the school and student body at large, their journalistic eye will grow sharper and they will be more likely to notice and engage with issues in the outside world as well. Besides, a school newspaper is about more than just writing. It also opens doors to people of other talents like graphic designers, illustrators, and those interested in finance if the publication receives funds from the school or elsewhere.

Despite all that the students have to gain from it, school journalism is a very absent concept in Bangladesh. The first and biggest reason for that is how the role of academics and good grades is overestimated in our society. The fact that focusing on only one aspect of school life means students miss out on the opportunity of growing into more well-rounded and balanced individuals is rarely, if ever, considered.

Lack of resources in our schools is another factor to consider. Given that teachers in most of our schools are severely underpaid, it is no wonder they have little interest in guiding students through activities outside the classroom. But it is important to have a present body of senior staff members to monitor the content students produce and ensure that the quality of the publication is upheld.

That being said, schools must realise that school journalism is meant to be unfiltered. School reporters, with sufficient evidence, should have the liberty to write the good, the bad and the ugly about the school and those affiliated with it.

Stanford University's oldest college newspaper, The Stanford Daily, for instance, has provided holistic reviews of the university over the years, from mentioning its women's basketball team's wins to boldly addressing sexual allegations against professors. If anything, school journalism can be a way to ensure democracy and awareness are maintained at schools.

Ultimately, journalism should undoubtedly be encouraged at our schools. It will be a great opportunity for students to grow as individuals and develop important skill sets while also promoting school spirit and accountability.

Fabiha is secretly a Lannister noblewoman and Slytherin alum. Pledge your allegiance and soul to her at [email protected]