The Media Literacy programme is an initiative of the United Nations of Alliance of Civilisations which aims at creating awareness among young people regarding media and its representation of different cultures and religions. Media Literacy also allows children to develop their critical thinking and expression skills.
Doha Centre for Media Freedom (DCMF) tested this concept from March to June in four schools in Qatar and thirty students got involved in the workshops organised by DCMF. The Centre plans to officially launch its programme in September at the start of the academic year.
“Media Literacy will be taught in thirty schools during the coming academic year” announced Ayman Bardawil, Programmes Director at DCMF, during the official launch of the Media Literacy programme in Qatar.
DCMF is trying to convince the Supreme Education Council to teach Media Literacy as a new subject in school in addition to the traditional curriculum.
For schools in Qatar, the DCMF team has developed a method called “School News,” which is a handbook in Arabic and English. This handbook will be distributed in partner schools from September onwards.
The goal is to teach young children, from 8 to 15 years, the basis of journalism. The five W’s (What? Who? Where? When? Why?) are taught during the first classes to allow the students to develop their curiosity.
“School News” also provides tips on how to conduct an interview, how to research story ideas and questions, how to present in front of a camera or in front of an interviewee. This training should help students to better understand the work of a media professional.
The programme doesn’t stop here, as “School News” also focuses on the history of media, from the first newspaper published in Germany in 1605 and the first radio signal made in Italy in 1895, right through to new media devices.
Participants of the programme are also taught about freedom of expression, which is normal for an organisation defending media freedom all around the world, as well as issues related to censorship.
“Children who got involved in the previous workshops, they all want to play a role in the future of media, they want to become anchors, reporters, producers,” said Rania Khaled al Husseini, Senior Coordinator for the Media Literacy programme at DCMF.
But Media Literacy does not only teach journalism in schools, DCMF also trains junior reporters and gives them the opportunity to produce video packages and cover events under the supervision of experienced journalists.
Dina Omer is a 19-year-old architecture student, and one of the first reporters to join the Media Literacy programme.
“I am passionate about journalism, I heard through friends that the centre was looking for young reporters and I didn’t hesitate to come and to be interviewed by DCMF” said Dina.
Since December 2011, Dina and ten other students her age have been participating in the programme.
“The first event that I covered was the forum of the United Nations for Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC) in Doha and I had the chance to interview the Austrian President, Heinz Fischer, I was proud!” Dina explained, adding that she feels the programme can help her to achieve her dream of becoming a journalist.
Abdulla Muaqat, 18, who is studying engineering, also covered the UNAOC forum last year.
Unlike Dina, Abdulla doesn’t want to become a journalist, but he enjoys being a junior reporter. “I really like interacting with people from different backgrounds, I like interviewing them and working with other junior reporters,” he said.
In September, Dina and Abdulla will return to university, but they will also keep up their work at the DCMF and continue to enjoy their journalistic adventure.
DCMF goals through Media Literacy
Through this programme, DCMF wants to create awareness among the youth on the use of news and on media content at a national and international level. This project should help them develop their analytical skills.
Media Literacy develops curiosity and encourages children and teenagers to be critical thinkers and to ask questions on every subject.
“In the Arab world, most of the children don’t speak freely” said Rania Khaled al Hussaini, adding “the DCMF workshops allow them to surpass their shyness and communicate easily with their teachers”
After implementing Media Literacy in Qatar, DCMF wants to launch the programme across the Gulf. Al Hekma International School in Bahrain has already accepted to be part of this educational project which will begin in September.