What does World Radio Day meAN TO Children

World Radio Day is an international day celebrated on 13 February each year. The Day was decided by UNESCO on 3 November 2011 during its 36th conference

By Hope Mbeere

“New World. New Radio” is the United Nation’s theme for the world radio day this year. The world has evolved enormously over the last two decades and especially in terms of internet and connectivity. Consequently, radio has evolved as well. Radio is no longer conformed to the traditional idea of a radio box, it’s virtually on every device. You literally don’t need a radio to listen to radio. Make sense? Of course it does.

Covid-19 and Radio learning

So the world has evolved, radio has evolved and now the human race can live happily ever after right…? Wrong. Only part of the world has evolved and that became very apparent when the COVID 19 pandemic struck early last year. Life came to a halt and schools all across the world were shut down.

Experts responded almost immediately with a solution. “Online learning.” Great idea! For first and second world countries not so much for third world countries where the larger population has no access to internet or electronic gadgets. It was time for Africans to get creative, think outside the box and some of them did.

In many parts of Central Africa and specifically Sierra Leon, the ministry of basic and senior secondary education started providing classes through radio broadcasts to help children continue learning from home. Thousands of battery powered radio sets were distributed in the country to low income households. Meanwhile a little close to home the Kenyan government was launching google loon balloons for internet to help children with no access to electricity, let alone electronic devices to learn from home. The irony.

After months of children being home with no way forward the government finally came around. The ministry of education issued KICD to broadcast interactive radio programs on the KBC English Service. This was a relatively good idea but the implementation was very poor. While radio is the most accessible and affordable medium of mass communication, there are still homes that can’t afford radios and especially in rural Kenya.

Did the government put all this factors into consideration? Here’s a wild guess, NO. So on one hand we had children in the urban areas learning while children in rural areas were forgotten. However, it is important to note that a few organizations noticed the gap and tried to help.

Zizi Afrique foundation a non-governmental organization that produces research to drive education policy started a project to donate solar powered radios to the most vulnerable households in Tana River County in southeastern Kenya. According to a survey conducted by Zizi Afrique just over one fifth of households owned a radio and only 18% had access to electricity in Tana River.

What am I driving at here? The radio is powerful tool. Highly accessible and affordable. Had the government taken time to their research and budget to provide radio sets to low income households a lot could have been achieved in terms syllabus coverage. 

Radio and Inappropriate content

On the 4th of February 2020, the moral cop Ezikiel Mtua banned some of Kenya’s most popular radio stations from being played in school vehicles for airing unrated content. Among them: Kiss FM, Classic 105, Radio Jambo and Ghetto Radio.

I can see where the Kenya Film Classification Board was driving at with this but did anyone consider that there are children who use PSV’s to commute to school? A lot of children in public schools use PSV’s because their schools’ cannot afford school buses. Once again children from low income families seem to have been forgotten.

Banning these stations in school vehicles was well intend but is there a follow up policy? How does KFCB know that these school buses are adhering to the rules? Is there any legal action/penalty for those who violate the rules? It’s one thing to wake up one morning and ban radio stations from being played and it’s a completely different thing to follow up and make sure these rules are being followed.

This move by the Kenya Film and Classification Board was the right move but there is far too many loopholes to convince me that this would have any impact. KFCB needs to go back to the drawing board and find ways to patch the loopholes to truly protect our children from inappropriate content and particularly in PSV’S.

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