Burnham student among first to pass course through academy for aspiring journalists with disabilities

A journalist from Burnham has become only the second person to pass an introductory journalism course through an academy launched for aspiring reporters with disabilities.

Khaleel Chima said he was ‘excited’ and ‘very happy and proud’ when he learnt he had passed the NCTJ Level 3 Certificate in Foundation Journalism earlier this month.

The qualification is being delivered through the Academy for Disabled Journalists (ADJ), which has been launched by Ability Today, a social enterprise and online news and information platform aiming at helping and supporting those with disabilities, in partnership with the NCTJ.

Khaleel, who has Glutaric Aciduria Type 1 (GA1), first started as a volunteer at Ability Today, helping to run the news website.

But, at the start of the roving reporter programme, he started going out to various places and creating videos stories of himself, showing experiences from the point of view of someone with disabilities.

Some of the videos he has created include going to London Zoo and showcasing their facilities for people with disabilities, visiting Aerobility to go up in a light aircraft and using the train and bus network in London.

He then signed up to the academy, which started in May 2020 and was originally meant to be held in-person at Ability Today’s headquarters in Surrey.

It was initially meant to support the community within a five to 10 mile-radius, but the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown gave the organisation an opportunity to move online and widen its reach.

The academy, which currently has more than 30 students with a range of disabilities, has welcomed students from all around the UK and the world, such as Scotland, Manchester, Burnham, Norfolk, Romania, Kenya and the Philippines.

As part of the course, Khaleel engaged in virtual classes once a week and covered a range of modules some of which include: gathering information, how to tell a news story, using audio to tell a story, finding and using data, and using video to tell a story, recording information, legal and ethical considerations for journalists, writing for digital media, and how society works.

Khaleel, who also has a YouTube channel, said that interviewing his old primary school teacher who used to work at Priory School was one of his favourite assignments because it was like ‘catching up with an old friend’.

Discussing how he felt when he heard he passed, he added: “I was very excited to hear that. I was really happy and really relieved.

"I’m very happy and proud and I’m very thankful of the people who helped me pass and achieve my goal.”

His carer Jamal Hiirad added: “I feel proud of him because I’ve seen him put in the work.”

The 30-year-old, who also has a maths degree and currently aspires to become a data journalist, added that the course helped him ‘keep connected’ to people and kept him occupied while isolating during lockdown.

Grant Logan, founder and CEO of Ability Today, said: “I’m massively proud of Khaleel and what he has achieved. He inspires me to get up and get on every day. He’s one of the greatest people I’ve met since becoming disabled.”

Discussing the academy, he added: "We're trying to lift any barriers that have previously been put into place, to educate people and provide pathways to employment.

"It's an honour to be able to help support people. It gives me immense pleasure to feel that I'm able to give something back and make other people's lives better and more fulfilled."

Khaleel has just been offered a job as an assistant editor at Ability Today, which he says he is ‘very happy and grateful’ for.

His tasks will include helping to compile the news stories each day and giving his thoughts on the articles.

The academy is also set to launch the NCTJ level 5 Diploma in Journalism in October.

Khaleel shares his experience

"I started Ability Today a couple of years back and just doing the basics but soon my potential got noticed and bigger things came my way.

"I started going out and about doing video reports. COVID came and stopped the fun.

"Fortunately, I gained the chance to gain the Certificate in Foundation Journalism.

"It was a blessing as I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere. Everything was online and people could socialise.

"The course itself was informative and enjoying. I’ve learned a lot from it and feel ecstatic and proud of my achievement."

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