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National Consultation on Promoting MIL and LLL in Ethiopia

The Role of Journalism and Adult Educators

A National Consultative meeting on Media and Information Literacy (MIL) and Lifelong Learning (LLL) in Ethiopia was organized by UNESCO Addis Ababa Office for Journalism educators and Adult Education experts drawn from 19 public universities in Ethiopia from 20 - 21 November 2019 in Addis Ababa. The Consultation and capacity development meeting aimed at exploring the capacities, assets and networks of higher education institutions in the promotion of MIL and LLL through research, advocacy and capacity development. 

Media and Information Literacy (MIL) is a newly emerging field of human rights in an increasingly digital, interdependent, and global world, and promotes greater social inclusion. It is defined as a set of competencies that empowers citizens to access, retrieve, understand, evaluate and use, create, as well as share: information and media content in all formats, using various tools, in a critical, ethical and effective way, in order to participate and engage in personal, professional and societal activities. 

MIL can bridge the gap between the information-rich and the information poor. It empowers and endows individuals with knowledge of the functions of the media and information systems and the conditions under which these functions are performed.

MIL is closely related to Lifelong Learning. LLL enables individuals, communities, and nations to attain their goals and to take advantage of emerging opportunities in the evolving global environment for the shared benefit of all individuals, not just a few. It assists them and their institutions and organisations to meet their technological, economic, and social challenges, to redress disadvantages, and to advance every individual's well-being.

Public universities in Ethiopia has three missions: quality teaching and learning, research and community services. With this mandate, Journalism and Adult Education Departments can join hands in addressing MIL and LLL objectives.  The three targets identified to initiate among the experts to engage are in advocacy, research and capacity development of MIL and LLL in Ethiopia. 

Ethiopia is leading a reform in key political, governance and economic sectors that includes expanding the freedom of expression and media freedom in the country. The Government, although courageous to promote freedom of expression, is concerned that the opening up of the media environment is being challenged due to the prevalence of disinformation (fake news) and hate speech. Ethnic tensions have caused displacements and loss of life in the country. Universities are becoming at the centre of violence with students as targets, which also costed lives.

In the current Ethiopian context, MIL and LLL could be a strong wing which will initiate reasoning and knowledge building among the young towards empowering citizens to able to fight disinformation and hate speech that ultimately contributes in preventing violence. MIL requires a multi-stakeholder, policy guided and research-based approach that identifies gaps and addresses priorities. Universities are key stakeholders in this initiative, particularly the two departments - Journalism and Adult Education.

In the two days consultative meeting, participants discussed the opportunities offered by MIL and LLL and the capacities of individuals and their institutions in working together in achieving the stated objectives. UNESCO’s experience in the field and resources available were shared so as to facilitate the immediate engagement of participants into actions upon return to their institutions. 

During the consultation, participants have identified key areas of engagement including revising the  respective department programmes to include MIL and LLL as courses; revise related courses already available in the curriculum to incorporate MIL contents, projects and activities for students; set up a MIL and LLL centre in the universities to organize initiatives and raise awareness; and conduct researches jointly among the two departments and across participating universities. Currently, about 11 Journalism and 13 Adult education courses have related contents to MIL and LLL as identified by participants. Three other courses are also provided as a common course for all students in the first year. Addis Ababa University has announced to design a MIL course for undergraduates. Other universities agreed to take lessons from Addis Ababa Univesity in this regard.

A national Working Platform to facilitate networking and joint programming among the departments and universities is established by volunteer young scholars from seven participant universities. The Platform will look at opportunities of collaboration, strengthen joint planning and execution of activities and overall coordination of MIL and LLL in which targeted at immediate and medium-term interventions to enhance MIL and LLL in the respective public universities and communities through the community services, research and in the classroom.

UNESCO Addis Ababa has also organized a half-day consultative meeting with key stakeholders at the national level in June 2019. UNESCO Addis and African Union will launch an open free MIL online course in December 2019 in the Pan African Virtual E-Learning  University.

For more information on the subject contact: 1) Communication and Information Programme - Aderaw Tassew ag.tassew@unesco.org and  Education Programme - Samuel Asnake s.asnake@unesco.org

To know more about UNESCO activities in MIL click here

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