Nigeria: Media Literacy and the Nigerian Child

The globalised nature of the 21st century with all its ingredients of sophistication in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has turned the world into what the philosopher and media theorist, Marshall McLuhan calls “The Global Village.” The ease with which people do business, access and share information through surfing the Internet has drawn the attention of educationists and media experts on the need for students to be abreast with what is happening around.

Although media literacy is critical to the overall development of the Nigerian child, children-issues have not been given enough attention by educationists. A good number of school children and teachers in the country lack access to digital technologies. This is responsible for low literacy rates. For example, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the literacy rates in countries like Cuba, Poland, and Estonia is as high as 99.8 per cent while that of Barbados, Latvia and Slovenia is 99.7 per cent. This report puts Nigeria’s literacy rate at 69.1 percent.

Media literacy is seen as an enterprise which incorporates all mass media products like books, magazines, newspapers, radio and television programmes, adverts, films and videos, computer network or games, records, tapes, DVDs, CDs and websites, into teaching. This provides continuous flow of information and leisure for students. It also helps them to collect and distribute information, enjoy entertainment, communicate values, embrace culture and tradition as well as to be sensitive to public threats like child labour, early marriage, child trafficking, rape and HIV/AIDS.

How children, understand media content and use them is crucial. This why educationists and policy makers think that media literacy is essential for the overall development of the child. In recent times, the three stages of media literacy include awareness of the importance of managing one’s media “diet,” the acquisition of specific skills of critical viewing and going behind the frame to explore deeper issues.

Media education is aimed at developing a child’s critical powers through analysis and production of media artifacts. Interestingly, the notions of “media literacy” and “visual literacy” are located within broader models of language and learning. This means that in Nigerian schools, experts ought to pay attention to language and modes of transmitting knowledge to children.

The usual interaction with modern media takes the form of media consumption and contact which has to do with reading, watching, listening and logging. These are important ways of participating creatively in modern culture. This exposes children to the rudiments of media literacy. It provides access for children to watch and listen to programmes meant for their age not necessarily because their parents are around but because they know it is the appropriate thing to do.

Modern life appears impossible without mass media and its attractions. This is the world in which children are born and raised. As such, it becomes a contradiction for children to have access to all sorts of modern gadgets at home only to go to school and make do with analog systems. Surprisingly, some schools have no computer not to talk of an ICT unit. It becomes a challenge to strike a balance between what they enjoy at home and the seeming boring classes they are forced to attend in school.

As part of events to mark the Day of Literacy declared on 8th of September by the United Nations (UN), the theme for 2017’s celebration, “Literacy in a digital world” focused on the use of digital tools for teaching and learning in the age of information. That year, the UN maintained that beyond the basic ability to read, write and calculate, today’s world require students who can embrace information technologies and their application.

Accordingly, the Nigeria Vision 2020 document outlined plans to make the curriculum in schools more relevant to the needs of the labour market with emphasis on ICT diffusion and targeted skills development. Observers say, there is a large response by the public, private, and civil sector to address the ever-changing educational needs of the Nigerian child through introduction of audio-visuals in classroom learning, digital media programmes, and distribution of educational tablets to students as well as training media-savvy teachers.

The neglect of teacher-education has dire consequences for the nation. To this end, media literacy leads to decent employment and entrepreneurship, makes for flexibility in learning and research, creates cultural expression and communication, develops critical thinking skills and helps teachers and students to adjust to a fast-changing world.

 Lack of efficient media literacy in primary and secondary schools in Nigeria is traced to poverty, non-integration into the school curriculum, poor project implementation, lack of efficient teachers, none-integration into the school curriculum, poor project implementation, financial constraints and lack of good libraries across the country.

To reverse the trend, Federal Government must include media literacy in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to provide capacity building for teachers in the area of ICT. Other stakeholders such as United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and National Orientation Agency (NOA), Association for Literacy Support, Council of Teachers of English should establish Literary and Debating Society, Press Clubs and Prizes for Literature in schools towards revamping media literacy in the country.

The Youth Media and Communication Initiative (YMCI) and the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) should initiative meaningful programmes that would keep the young on their toes in a competitive world. This should be complimented with requisite media training projects like engaging group of girls on the importance of ICT in the development of the Girl-Child based on the SDGs.

In line with international best practices, educators should incorporate media analysis and production into the school-curriculum. Also, students should be involved in the creation of media contents in their varying formats of newspapers, magazines, radio and television programmes, films, websites and other digital materials. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!

 Fr. Dyikuk is a Lecturer of Mass Communication, University of Jos, Editor – Caritas Newspaper and Convener, Media Team Network Initiative (MTNI), Nigeria.




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