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Global body, UNESCO, the Media and Information Literacy of Nigeria (MILCON) and the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE) have finalised plans to introduce media and information literacy (MIL) into Nigerian colleges of education as another step aimed at curbing hate speech and fake news.

This was revealed at an interactive session held on Monday at the UN House, Abuja, by MILCON, a coalition of Nigerian news outfits, media groups, NGOs, educational institutions and government parastatals formed to tackle fake news and hate speech in 2017.

MILCON enjoys technical and institutional support from UNESCO, which has deployed resources over the years to support its activities.

During Monday’s meeting of the coalition, the various groups deliberated on how the coalition can increase the momentum of its activities toward engaging Nigerians on how to spot and avoid being caught in the web of fake news.

Representatives from various schools, ministries, government establishments, the media, NGOs and others attended the event.

In 2019, PREMIUM TIMES published a piece on how the negative effects of fake news cum hate speech was slowly ravaging the country.

Earlier in 2018, the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) launched Dubawa, and UDEME, two fact-checking platforms aimed at checking the menace.

Tackling through curriculum

On Monday, a senior official of NCCE, Umar Adamu, said media and information literacy, pivotal to tackling the menace would soon be officially integrated into the curriculum of colleges of education as the first step toward integration into other curricula.

”Yes, we are at an advanced stage. In the next couple of months, media and information literacy will be part of compulsory courses, our students are expected to take in their year one and two.”

He said NCCE in collaboration with UNESCO, MILCON and others developed the curriculum for MIL.

”We mainstreamed the MIL curriculum into the 2019 minimum standards for our schools, which is about to be ready soonest.

We have also organised the ‘train the trainers’ workshop in the six geopolitical zones to train our teachers on the methods of teaching MIL to the pre-service teachers,” Mr Adamu said.

However, the director, Library and Information Centre of the Nigerian Educational Research Development Council (NERDC), Eleri Otu, who spoke at the meeting, said MIL should also be integrated at the basic level of education to aid it effectiveness.

”The idea should be ‘catch them young’ and with UBEC providing the needed funds, and NCCE, providing the technical expertise, MIL will be seamlessly integrated into the system especially at the formative years of our children,” he said inter alia.

Meanwhile, Olunifesi Suraj, who represented activist, Chido Onuma, the acting chairman of MIL, said when fully integrated into the nation’s educational system, MIL will go a long way in curbing hate speech and fake news.

Mr Suraj is a UNESCO Consultant & MIL National Coordinator and Sub-Dean, School of Communication, Lagos State University.

”MIL will help Nigeria and Nigerians to be fully integrated into the global media activities aimed at curbing hate speech and fake news,” the scholar said.

He also said MILCON is working on other fronts to curb the menace. This, he said, included its collaboration with the National Open University and Universal Basic Education to integrate MIL into the academic syllabus of Nigerian schools.

He also said the coalition was working on guidelines for broadcasters that would incorporate MIL.

”For now, 22 schools have done pilot phases of the integration of MIL in their curricula. We are also working to translate MIL into major Nigerian languages to reach those that are not literate. We are working with various NGOs to utilise other extra-academic measures to educate Nigerians on MIL,” Mr Suraj explained.

At the event, he also presented two game packs, books and animation developed by the coalition and supported by UNESCO to push the idea of MIL into the Nigerian populace.

In his submission, the co-chairman at the meeting, Zubairu Attah, said MILCON has come a long way since its formation in 2017 and has undertaken numerous projects across the country to call the attention of Nigerians to the need for a responsible and responsive media and information terrain.

The literary activist and human rights advocate said, in the next couple of months, MILCON would be unveiling many other projects to engage Nigerians on MIL.

Meanwhile, the National Professional Officer-CI, UNESCO Regional Office, Abuja, Macauley Olusola, in his remarks said MILCON is a Nigerian project and should not be misconstrued as UNESCO’s.

He, however, said UNESCO will continue to offer the needed support to ensure that the project succeeds.

”UNESCO will also support the move by MILCON to ensure that a national policy on media and information literacy becomes a reality,” Mr Macauley said.


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