By Savannah Jenkins

A recorded poem about violence and evil. A photo essay celebrating African goddesses and the beauty of women. An article about a tee shirt and feminism.

Students at the African Leadership Academy have had more articles published on News-Decoder than their peers at any of our other 15 partner schools, earning the academic institution in South Africa its second “Decoder in the Spotlight” award this year.

Special mention goes to ALA Student Ambassadors Souleymane Diallo, Abigael Abuga and Lughano Bupe Kabaghe, and to faculty coordinator Maya Schkolne for motivating students to engage in creative ways with News-Decoder.

“The Student Ambassadors have worked extremely hard to create momentum around News-Decoder on campus,” said Schkolne, who is on the Humanities faculty at the secondary school that attracts some of Africa’s brightest students to its campus outside Johannesburg.

“They have made announcements, gathered groups, stuck up posters and organized so that other students could actively participate in the various options offered by News Decoder.”

The “Decoder in the Spotlight” is awarded every month to schools or individuals who show leadership, innovation and collaboration in bringing News-Decoder to their communities.

ALA’s Student Ambassadors are responsible for promoting News-Decoder on campus — encouraging students to submit multi-media content for publication, participate in webinars, take online courses on writing and interviewing, and use News-Decoder in the classroom.

Diallo is from Guinea and is passionate about changing perceptions of Africa. Born and raised in Nairobi, Abuga plans to study chemical engineering to encourage other young women to pursue STEM careers. Kabaghe hopes to become Zambia’s first female president.

Commitment and energy

ALA’s exemplary engagement was reflected in the number of students who submitted content to News-Decoder’s recent storytelling contest. Fully one-third of the entries came from ALA, and three of them have already been published, adding to the school’s growing list of contributions to the educational news service’s website.

“The amount of ALA submissions to News Decoder this past term can be attributed to their commitment and energy,” says Schkolne.

ALA first received the “Decoder in the Spotlight” award in March for contributing exceptional multimedia content to News-Decoder’s website on the theme of “Africa.”  This year, ALA is tackling the theme of  “Individual & Society” with Friends Seminary, a U.S.-based school in New York.

The three contest entries that have been published include a poem by Rachel Langalanga, a first-year ALA student, addressing sexual violence against women.

Kenyan student Gayle Trish Were produced a video depicting three African goddesses as symbols of the strength and beauty of African women. Fatima Ugbede Yunusa, a 17-year-old from Nigeria, wrote an article on her struggle to balance her identity as Igala, Muslim and feminist.

In an episode in Season Two of The Kids Are Alright, a joint podcast with media partner Podium.me, ALA’s Thabong Matona was interviewed by Miss Porter’s student Leela Rosaz Shariyf on the voting habits of young people in South Africa.

Last month, ALA raised its hand to co-host, along with Indiana University, a webinar on nurturing media literacy through reality TV.

To read about previous recipients of the “Decoder in the Spotlight” award and their contributions to the News-Decoder community, click here.


Savannah Jenkins is News-Decoder’s Communications Manager. A dual American-British citizen, she completed a double major in International and Comparative Politics, History, Law and Society at the American University of Paris. She initially joined News-Decoder in 2018 and has experience working for non-profit and for-profit organizations. Jenkins recently completed a stint volunteering in Greece, where she provided emergency relief to refugees.

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African Leadership Academy Decoder Spotlight: African Academy excels again