Managers from competing newspapers have joined forces to start a News[papers] in Education (NIE) programme in Botswana.
Thanks to their efforts and the generosity of winners of WAN-IFRA's World Young Reader Prize (see below), forty teachers learned how to use the newspaper as a supplemental resource in class in intensive, laugher-filled day-long introductory sessions.
Leading the training was Mhle "Jennifer" Mthimkhulu of Media in Education Trust, South Africa, who has helped WAN-IFRA start NIE programmes in several African countries. The participants did a newspaper race, then used elements from newspapers to describe themselves, to cope with a shopping budget, to explore a challenge, plan a trip and think about the role of trees in society.
"We had an exciting sessions with the two groups of teachers in Botswana," she said. "It was great two days of interaction and full participation by teachers."
The teachers agreed.
• "All the activities cater for individual differences and also help in teaching most of the subjects in the curriculum."
• "I enjoyed the "Let's Shop" activity the most because I learnt a lot of things from it like team work, how to prioritize and how to compromise while also helping our students in math.
• "The activities were educational games. It was as though we were playing but we were learning.
• "I enjoyed all the activities during the workshop because everyone was involved and most of them also having fun."
• "In this work, learners can take the lead in the learning with the teacher not saying too much and pupils doing most of the work themselves. 'You hear and you forget; you do and you remember.'"
Earlier, as part of a first introduction led by Ivor Price, a South African journalist and WAN-IFRA consultant, primary school students in Tlokweng in the southeast of the country spent a day using newspapers to learn math, geography, meteorology and cost comparison skills.
Both that earlier classroom session and the later training were organized by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), together with Botswana participants in WAN-IFRA’s Women in News (WIN) Programme and the Botswana Ministry of Education.
The partnership had a fully equal division of labor and financial responsibility with the newspapers taking the lead in making the event happen, WAN-IFRA arranging and covering the costs of the trainers and course materials and the ministry determining participants and covering the logistical costs for the training sessions themselves.
"The next step, which has happened in many coutries, is to work with a local foundation and local companies or even an international company, that can help the programme become sustainable," said Aralynn McMane, WAN-IFRA executive director for youth engagement and news literacy.
"It's a great way to contribute to education by supporting this sort of programme, which involves a plurality of newspapers. We have seen, unfortunately, an alarming trend in some countries for only the government-ownd newspaper to be used in class. That kills most of the democratic benefits of such programmes."
Seroro Ramahobo, deputy director for pre- and primary education in Botswana, made clear that the "historic" NIE training sessions and the project itself were part of the ministry's Adopt a School Initiative that is aimed a promoting partnerships between the ministry, the private sector and other stakeholders.
“It’s perfect. It’s just what we needed to stop TTT – too much teacher talking,” said Bontle Kuhlmann, the country’s newly appointed Chief Educator who participated in the initial event. “For too long our teachers have been standing in front of classes, just talking without our learners participating.”
Sinqobile Tesa, news editor at The Voice and a WIN participant, said the project, with the involvement of local NIE partners Mmegi and The Botswana Guardian, hopes to reach 400 teachers and 4,000 students in the next two years.
"The introduction of newspapers in education in Botswana will go a long in making sure the country achieves one of its 2016 vision of having an educated and informed nation, she said. "I also have no doubt that the the pass rate which is on the decline especially at primary level will eventually be on the rise again as this programme inculcates a culture of reading and serious studying."
The WAN-IFRA team was led by South African media trainer Ivor Price, who introduced students and teachers to various 15-minute exercises in basic skills and media literacy that had students racing to find a shopping list, modes of transport and even advertising in exercises developed for WAN-IFRA by Mthimkhulu.
“Understandably, since it’s never been done here, some people were concerned that newspapers wanted tointroduce propaganda or negativity of some sort into our schools,” said Phemelo Ramasu from The Botswana Guardian.
“They just weren’t sure what to expect,” said Mmegi’s Baboki Kayawe. “In a country without many books, we know that newspapers can be a valuable supplementary tool in our classrooms. We simply want to promote literacy and a love of reading in both children and parents.”
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A GLOBAL ACTIVITY Aralynn McMane, WAN-IFRA’s executive director of young readership development, said: “Using the newspaper as an extra text in class has strengthened education all over the world, with a documented impact on student achievement in many areas, such as basic skills, citizenship studies, critical thinking and media literacy. We are delighted to see the crucial partnership of educators and newspapers emerge so quickly in Botswana and expect more great things to happen there.”
WAN-IFRA counts at least 80 countries that have some sort of newspapers in education programme, which calls for using the printed or digital edition of the newspaper as a supplemental text for classroom. NIE programmes also exist in other parts of English-speaking Africa, notably South Africa, Liberia, Ghana, Uganda and Kenya, most of them begun with the help of WAN-IFRA and all of them using a plurality of newspapers in class.
"I've seen a few new programmes lately where public money is used to promote only the government-owned newspaper in class. This is bad for education and for democracy," McMane said.
Botswana was not the only country to start NIE in 2012. Read here about how Ireland did it.
PRIZE WINNERS GIVE BACK This latest phase was supported by the Ministry of Education and by five newspapers around the world who donated their award money from winning one of WAN-IFRA's 2012 World Young Reader Prizes. They were: i-next of India, The Philippine Daily Inquirer, El Nuevo Día (Puerto Rico USA), Polskapresse (Poland) and Westdeutsche Zeitung (Germany). The first phase of the Botswana NIE project was supported by Norske Skog, the Norway based global paper producer as part of its partnership in WAN-IFRA's Newspapers in Education Development programme. WAN-IFRA hopes to work with additional partners to expand this work.
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