Perspective On Community Media & EducationBy James Achanyi-Fontem,CEO, Cameroon LinkEmail: firstname.lastname@example.org
It was a pleasure to participate in activities marking the 2019 Commonwealth Day in Cameroon. James Achanyi Fontem, the CEO of Cameroon Link who holds the position of the liaison person for the Commonwealth of Learning Cameroon Link Partnership led activities on Commonwealth Day in Douala, economic capital of Cameroon.. Cameroon Link was pleased to contribute and share its experiences and also learn from others during the 70th Anniversary of the Commonwealth this year. Activities in Douala focused on “Learning from Community Media to impact on Commonwealth Development in Cameroon. As a member of the Commonwealth trained team in Cameron, James Achanyi Fontem shared his views on on the topic, “Participation, Education and Development” in the context of 2019 Commonwealth Day theme: A Connected Commonwealth’.
In the context of Cameroon, Community media is 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 the Commonwealth and providing feedback.
Due to the fact that there is a lack of appropriate and effective learning opportunities in remote rural and resource-poor regions of Cameroon, 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.
Activities linked to community media are a good strategy for educating the population and to deliver part of a conversation on the Commonwealth goals and successes for communication and development projects on “A Connected Commonwealth”.Through the collaboration with different groups, we realize that participation helps to ensure relevance in planning and responsiveness in implementation of development goals.
During a survey in rural areas of Cameroon, it was noted that the existence of local media, community development channels, information and communication technology (ICT) centres and other localized services were not effectively structured for engaged learning.
This made Cameroon Link feel that there remains untapped potentials in collaboration among the different groups. To fill the gap, community radios should be assisted to go beyond the issue of connectivity since they cater for the interests of certain areas/communities by broadcasting material that is popular to a local audience. Such broadcast material or information is usually based on the social, economic and cultural aspects of the very community.
During the recent survey by Cameroon Link, 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 other. 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 serves 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. This explains why we used this opportunity to undertake advocacy activities towards celebrations marking the 2019 Commonwealth Day in Cameroon.
Since Community media 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 are 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 provides 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 programmers 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 programed development processes,
This will enable us to better experiment and demonstrate appropriate educational community radio broadcasts 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.
James Achanyi-Fontem, is a Senior Health Journalist and Communication Consultant. He worked as a health journalist and broadcaster for 30 years with Radio Cameroon and later Cameroon Radio Television, CRTV before retiring in 2005 to engage fully with Cameroon Link (Human Assistance Programme). Cameroon Link is a registered charity, not-for-profit organisation involved in the promotion of community health, humanitarian assistance, promotion of women and child rights through involvement of communities in Cameroon for mother and child health care. Cameroon Link is a partner to Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Farm Radio International (FRI), International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN Africa), World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA). As the intermediary of Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Cameroon Link is engaged to implement a Cameroon Rural Radio story design Programming through an investigative research, which aims to discover through interviewing beneficiaries of health programmes on their interests, documenting and disseminating new ideas about how radio stations produce and air Healthy Communities Radio Programs in Cameroon.