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UNESCO Beirut promotes youth media literacy through the “New Media Clubs” pilot project

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26 February 2019
UNESCO Beirut promotes youth media literacy through the “New Media Clubs” pilot project
In another step towards promoting media literacy amongst youth in Lebanon, and in order to foster positive use of media by youth, UNESCO Beirut launched a pilot project called “New Media Youth clubs”. This one-of-a-kind initiative aims at enhancing media information literacy (MIL) among youth in 5 schools in Lebanon (3 public and 2 private) located in the South, North, Bekaa, Beirut and Mount Lebanon regions, through creating MIL clubs that are managed by youth and that work on disseminating media literacy, peace building and respect for diversity through a peer-to-peer approach. The project is built on the rationale that by becoming media literate, youth are able to critically and skeptically analyze media messages they encounter every day, become wiser consumers of media who are capable of evaluating online information and are able to protect themselves from deceptive media messages.
As a first step in this project, UNESCO Beirut held on 20-21 and 26 February 2019 a three-day capacity development workshop for 10 teachers selected from the 5 targeted schools. The workshop, animated by trainers from Dawaer NGO, aimed at introducing participants to MIL and club management principles, and at providing them with media skills, thus enabling them to transfer the information and knowledge they acquired to the students. In fact, the teachers play a crucial role in this project: they will supervise and monitor the operation of the club and will help the students in the communication and coordination with the school and the community. Teachers will also monitor the implementation, at the club level, of a reference document created during the project to facilitate the replication of the activity in other schools later on.

Asked about the relevance of this project for her school and the value of the capacity development training she received, Ms Abir al Arab, from Jamil Rawwas Secondary School, said: “It’s been years that I notice that our students have absolutely no media culture. That are all connected on social media, yet they misuse these platforms. They often post un-useful content, or they share posts with violent content. Also, the students are media consumers, yet they do not know how to distinguish between “good content” and “bad content”, accurate news and “fake news”. Therefore, when UNESCO Beirut approached our school with the idea of this project, I enthusiastically volunteered to participate because I believe that given the prevalence of media today, it is our responsibility as teachers to raise students’ awareness on media and to foster their media literacy so as to build their ability to think critically and become active citizens”.

As to Ms Rita Aoun, a teacher at the Antonine Ajaltoun school, she asserted that: “Media culture and media literacy have become a must in our time, where every citizen is a journalist and a reporter. Therefore, I fully encourage the implementation of this project in all schools in Lebanon so that students learn how to be not only media consumers but also media producers”. Speaking of the value of the workshop she attended, Ms Aoun said: “I have some media background, as I have worked for years at a TV channel. However, I am a “technical person”, I master technical skills, like how to use a camera, how to record a voice, how to film a report, but I have no skills in the production of media content. In this workshop, the trainers introduced us to these skills in a “soft”, and very interactive way. I appreciated the “bottom-up approach” they adopted which allowed us to share our experiences, before them “imposing” any knowledge on us”.

Ms al-Arab shared the same opinion: “We learnt how to film a report through a mobile phone. This is impressive and the students will be happy to acquire this skill. They always believed that they couldn’t film movies because our school doesn’t own a professional camera. Their problem is now solved; we will teach them how to overcome this obstacle by simply using their personal phones!”

Building on this capacity development workshop for teachers, the other phases of the project will follow: a core team of youth between 14-16 years will be selected from the 5 schools, according to their motivation and commitment, and they will receive a three-day training on MIL and life skills that will enable them to form and run the clubs. The clubs will produce media content that expresses their own voices, ideas and perspectives, while reflecting their ability to analyze and verify information. They will be encouraged to cover issues related to human rights and peace building. Dawaer NGO will provide continuous technical assistance to the clubs in order to form a strong team of youth who are capable of managing their clubs and communicating and transmitting the experience to their peers.