Ndiaga presents a weekly English language programme on Radio Sud FM Ziguinchor, in Senegal.
Why did you want to become a journalist?
Early in my teaching career, I realised I could use my communication skills to raise awareness among my people – whose most important need is education. Judging from the lack of information my students had, I quickly developed an interest in becoming a journalist. One of the key factors was that I taught in the Casamance region in south Senegal, where a rebel war erupted in 1982 due to an acute lack of information. What is going on in Casamance is not a 'hot war' that makes worldwide headlines. It is a low-grade conflict that has kept the region in turmoil.
Fortunately, this year a ten-point agreement for reconstruction was signed between the Senegalese government and the rebels. But the consequences of the war include human rights abuse, women's rights abuse, and an HIV/AIDS rate higher than the national average. All these issues contributed to my desire to become a journalist.
How did you get into journalism?
After several years of radio broadcasting, I developed an interest in production, presentation and reporting. In 2002, I applied for a Chevening scholarship to take journalism studies and went to Cardiff University in the UK for a Thomson Foundation course. I was trained in journalism as well as the use of new media technologies. Scripting, anchoring (I did TV too, to be multi-skilled), reporting and editing became familiar. I first experienced the pressure of a newsroom when participating as a trainee in the production of Good Evening Wales, on BBC Wales.
After the course, my production and presentation skills improved, and the BBC appointed me as tutor in a Hornby School in Nigeria. The BBC World Service then decided to launch its English service by re-broadcasting in countries such as Mali, Nigeria, Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea. As I'd been presenting radio in English for five years and had developed a format with phone-ins and debates, I was an ideal candidate.
Later I started to use digital editing when filing features to Free Speech Radio News (FSRN), a magazine produced in the United States and aired by many radio stations around the world. Working in this way has broadened my knowledge and allowed me to put all the theory I learnt into practice. It also improved my scripting, and my use of English.
How did you get into radio?
I trained as an English language teacher after my university studies. After four years of teaching, I was promoted to teacher adviser. The post consisted of running in-service education workshops with English teachers in the Bignona area of Casamance. Then, in 1998, I started producing and presenting a broadcast called English Connection Time.
I felt that the southern part of Senegal needed an English radio talkshow to help develop the language ability of those who are in contact with English-speaking Gambians. Also, my students and fellow teachers really lacked a forum where they could express themselves in English (other than the classroom). My first show was on 21 June 1998. It was a real challenge. But as a teacher, sitting there and speaking to people came naturally. But it was only in the UK that I really discovered radio, its wonders and its challenges.
What is it particularly about radio that interests you now?
Radio is a powerful tool, especially in underdeveloped countries. A message given out on the radio has the potential to reach many people. But there is also a danger that people always believe what they hear on the radio. I've often heard people say: "it's true… I heard it on the radio". I guess that's why those carrying out a military coup always take control of the national radio station. It's a symbol – and source – of strength.
I'm fond of good features, features including actuality, a groovy script that is lively and colourful enough to convey all the images a TV would. Radio is an educational tool. It should inform in a just and accurate way.
What's it like being a journalist in Senegal?
It's not easy to be a journalist in Senegal. The salary is too low and for that reason I continue to teach. Being a freelancer is a little easier as you get paid by more than one employer. Many reporters I know can't live only on their income from journalism. It's not a risky profession though; we don't often experience wars as in southern or central Africa. The rebels here have never attacked journalists.
Being a reporter is very challenging. It's a job where you can gain people's respect, but might also arouse suspicion. Sometimes you need to meet deadline when the whole newsroom is waiting for you. You run for the news no matter how dark the night is or how hot the sun is.