Participation, Education & Development
Perspective On Community Media & Education
By James Achanyi-Fontem,Cameroon
In the context of Cameroon, Community media is beginning to be found as a tool for increasing participation in learning and development processes. This takes root from identifying learning needs to designing programming, creating content, talking about it and providing feedback.
Due to the fact that there is a lack of appropriate and effective learning opportunities in remote rual and resource-poor regions, while schools do not cater for non-formal or life-long needs of school drop outs and adults, the only way to change attitudes is through community media.
This makes community media a good strategy for educating the population and to deliver part of a conversation, a communication programme or a development project. Through the collaboration between different groups, we realize that participation helps to ensure relevance in planning and responsiveness in implementation development goals.
During the survey in Menji, Lebialem area of Cameroon, it was noted that the existence of local media, community development programmes, information and communication technology (ICT) centre and other localized services were not effectively structured for engaged learning.
This makes us feel that there remains untapped potential in collaboration among the different groups. To feel the gap, community radios go beyond the issue of connectivity since they cater for the interests of a certain area/community by broadcasting material that is popular to a local audience. Such broadcast material or information is usually based on the social, economic and political aspects of that very community.
During the recent story design workshop in Lebialem, it became visible that the main focus of community media is not just installing equipment and creating connections to entertain the publics, but rather to organize the community so that it can resolve its specific problems, which may vary from one setting to the next. In Cameroon, community radio stations are usually jointly owned by the community and NGOs or associations, that are not profit motivated and therefore their programming is not influenced by sponsors/advertisers It serve as a means by which to avoid self-marginalization while still adhering to the principles of community interests and social objectives. Community media is a means by which local news and information is disseminated. It allows citizens to inform themselves about the issues taking place around them.
Since they are gaining too much popularity today, those in management need tips on how to manage them, package information so that it is relevant and also, get ideas on how to sustain them; given the fact that they are not profit orientated.
Community media in all its various forms is inseparably linked to the enhancement of a civil society and civic participation. It is bound only by the limits of creativity and of course accessibility to resources and spectrum. The key characteristics of community media convey a more clear understanding of its definition as well as its depth and dimension in terms of how it takes shape in the civic landscape.It reflects their communities, and more importantly also become integral to the communities which they serve. Integration is achieved through ensuring their accountability to the particular community concerned .This takes the form of community ownership within a legally constituted non-profit distributing structure. Community Radio is a powerful tool for learning for development, especially informal learning for improving health and livelihoods. The role of community radio in providing non-formal educational opportunities, especially for non literate communities in Cameroon.
Community media outlets not only reflect their communities, more importantly they are integral to the communities which they serve. The integration is achieved through ensuring their independence from commercial interests, but also through ensuring their accountability to the particular community concerned. The accountability often takes the form of community ownership within a legally constituted non-profit distributing structure. Community Radio for example is a powerful tool for learning for development, especially informal learning for improving health and livelihoods. The scale of learning challenge is so overwhelming that all viable methods are harnessed to it. Several thousands of children between the ages of 12 and 14 are not in secondary school for various reasons and we have a first challenge of scale that must be addressed.
Community radio can play an important role in giving youngsters the skills that will lead to better livelihoods and getting them into employment or self-employment. It can also help to keep them healthy, which is the second challenge.There is clearly an urgent need for more learning about health. Community radio is a focal point for community driven learning, allowing learners to identify their own priorities based on participatory mechanisms of assessment . Radio Dramas, storytelling and interviews in particular, are effective and low cost ways of making community voices an integral part of the learning process.
Participatory tools used in the development of learning programs encourage networking and collaboration among key local actors, as well as effective advocacy for open distance learning. This helps to share knowledge about community-based learning programmes through networking possibilities.
To forge ahead positively, we should be able to build capacity in community groups for designing participatory educational programming, particularly bringing together radio with other groups in development, health, education, etc. in consultation and research about educational priorities, and educational programme development processes,
This will enable us to better experiment and demonstrate appropriate educational community radio programmes for example on maternal and child health care, HIV/AIDS, Diabetes, Sickle Cell, etc, especially as it will increase participation in learning and development process, after identifying learning needs, designing programming, creating content, talking about it and providing feedback.
In conclusion, participation through joint efforts by the different groups and sectors in the community helps to ensure relevance in planning and responsiveness in implementation. It enables better collective, collaborative responses to development challenges such as maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, malaria, sickle cell, diabetes and other problems the people living within the community face regularly.