Mention the word "communications" in East Africa and
most people will respond with a blank stare and ask: "What’s that?" An air of
mystery seems to surround the work of "communicators." A priest in Kenya
received an announcement about a "Mass Communications Seminar." He explains the
course in this way: "I was in the seminary for eight years. Since ordination I
have been communicating to my parishioners by saying mass every day. When asked
if she wanted to attend a "Mass Media Seminar" a woman replied: "I don’t think
so. You see I’m not a Catholic and I don’t go to mass." A priest explained the
meaning of "Mass Communications" in these words: "That’s when you speak louder
while saying mass."
At the beginning of our communications seminars we used
this story. A man traveling from Nairobi, Kenya to Kampala, Uganda telephoned a
hotel to reserve a room for the night. The clerk replied that he had two types
of rooms: a room with a bath and a room with a shower. Wanting to inquire about
the difference in price the traveler asked: "Well, what’s the difference?" The
clerk answered: "With a bath you sit down and with a shower you stand up."
No wonder people are confused about communicating in
Africa. A radio announcer in West Africa finished the morning news program by
saying: "And now for today’s weather." There was a period of silence, then the
sound of the rustling of papers. Finally he said: "I can’t find today’s weather
so I will read yesterday’s weather."