• Profs gather, under the auspices of UNESCO and UNITWIN, to tackle challenges posed by social media to modern journalism practice
By Jet Stanley Madu
Social media and digital technology that avail individuals the opportunity to communicate and share ideas with others, have been described as a key dimension in the way computers and digital technologies are revolutionizing how people create, store, transmit and consume information and knowledge.
With electronic gadgets now within everyone’s reach, anyone can stay anywhere point and report, write or comment on just any issue, from any angle. But with speculations becoming the order of the reportage, observers have raised concerns over challenges posed by the new wave of communication technology.
Scholars, communication experts and other stakeholders contend that people should use the social media responsibly and give facts instead of propaganda. Further, they opined that if used properly, it could be an effective instrument for effective education, dissemination of information and enlightenment.
It was against this backdrop that a workshop was held recently at the Lagos State University Ojo. Tagged A National Workshop on Media Information Literacy Curriculum (MIL) Adaptation and Intervention Programme in Selected Higher Institutions of Learning in Nigeria and jointly organized by the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Universities Twinning and Networking (UNITWIN), it was the first of its kind in the country.
In his opening speech, the Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Prof. Iyiola Oni, lamented that effort at getting the right information from the avalanche of rumours, fake news and falsehood has become a daunting challenge especially in social media. He therefore insisted that this has necessitated the need for combination of media and information literacy with intercultural dialogue in order to achieve sustainable human development. “There is urgent need for an education that addresses information and media literacy skills gap,” he said.
Some scholars who presented papers during the two-day workshop that held at the School of Transport Conference Room and which had its theme as: “Enhancing Intercultural Competences Through Media And Information Literacy Curriculum In Nigeria Universities” include: Professor of Journalism, School of Communication, Lagos State University, Prof. Lai Oso. In his paper centered on “Enhancing Intercultural Dialogue Competencies Through Media And Information Literacy Curriculum Intervention In Nigerian Universities,” he contended that, “education is geared toward information storage. Today, that is neither possible nor necessary. Rather, humankind needs to be taught how to process information that is stored through technology. Education needs to be geared towards the handling of data rather than the accumulation of data.”
UNESCO Consultant & MIL National Coordinator, Sub-Dean, School of Communication, Lagos State University, SURAJ, Olunifesi Adekunle, who presented a paper entitled: “UNESCO’s Media and Information Literacy (MIL): Educational Policy and Strategy Guidelines”, with focus on curriculum development, held that the world has become increasingly globally connected and therefore requires a vision for the implementation of media and information literacy in all nations and for all citizens. He opined that if the understanding, misunderstanding or lack of understanding of media and other information-providers, including those on the Internet, begins in the minds of men, women and children, their minds will need to be empowered to ensure they can benefit fully from the media and information they have access to.
The paper presented by the National Professional Officer-CI, UNESCO Regional Office, Abuja, Mr. Macauley Olusola and which dwelt on the “Overview Of The Curriculum On Media And Information Literacy,” assessed the importance of media information learning to democracy and good governance. In it, he described MIL as an important prerequisite for fostering equitable access to information and learning, for engagement in digital society, an essential ingredient for the power to understand, inquire, create, communicate and think critically and to make informed decision.
There’s no gainsaying the fact that many Nigerians are in the dark about the fact that the National Communications Commission (NCC) has over time, been involved in manpower training in the area of Information, Communication and Telecommunication (ICT) through its institute, the Digital Bridge Institute (DBI). This revelation came from the administrator of the institute, Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, who also presented a paper during the workshop.
The DBI, he is said, was established in 2004 and operates from three centres in Lagos, Abuja and Kano. Said to have been providing significant training to Nigerian tertiary education sector, as well as soft skills ICT training under a programme called Advanced Digital Appreciation Programme for Tertiary Institutions (ADAPTI), DBI is reported to have churned out over 40,000 staff (academic and non-academic) since its take-off in 2006.
In his lecture titled, “Bridging the Knowledge Gap between Professional Institutes and Nigerian Universities: The MIL Curriculum Option”, Adinde who disclosed that e-skill is in high demand in the creative services, entertainment, media and in more fields advised that the trainings be duly certified. “Once people have completed their training, they need to get comparable certification so that employers could recognise, reward and develop their skills,” he said.
The Vice Chancellor of the university and chief host, Prof. Olarenwaju Adigun Fagbohun, who applauded UNESCO & UNITWIN for working in conjunction with LASU on the initiative to adapt media and information literacy curriculum into Nigerian universities, noted that the workshop was coming at a time when the nation’s security and collective identity is being daily threatened as a result of the proliferation of fake news, falsehood and hate speeches through the platform of social media and other unprofessional media which could endanger people’s collective existence if not quickly and properly addressed.
He assured of LASU’s eagerness to run diploma, bachelor and postgraduate degrees in Media and Information Literacy as designed by UNESCO and UNITWIN and approved by the National Universities Commission.
Participants who graced the occasion include, the Dean, Faculty of Social Science, Nnamdi Azikwe University, Prof. Chinyere Okunna, Head of Department, Mass Communication, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Dr. Mamud M. Umar, Dr. Sarah Lwahas, the Head of Department, Mass Communication, University of Jos; Prof. Eno Joseph, Chief Librarian, Akwa Ibom State University; Brig. General (Dr.) John Agim, the Commandant, Army School of Public Relations & Information (NASPRI); Prof. Biodun Akinpelu Director, Centre for General Nigerian Studies, Lagos State University; Prof. Udo John Ibok Director, Academic Planning, AKSU; Dr. Sunday Oloruntola, H.O.D Mass Communication, UNILAG.
Others are: heads of institutions, directors of academic planning, university librarians, directors of distance learning, administrators of institutes, commandants, deans of faculties and representatives of National Universities Commission (NUC).
At the end of the workshop, a communiqué was issued. It was resolved among others that MIL could be offered as a certificate or diploma course; that the departments of Mass Communication and other related faculties and departments should review their existing curriculum to accommodate MIL. In addition, broadcast media houses were urged to partner with UNESCO and UNITWIN to broadcast stories that promote right attitudes among youths.