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Journalism education and child rights university-level course expands in Central Asia

By Galina Solodunova



ISSYKUL, Kyrgyzstan 24 April, 2012 —  A three-day forum on “Children’s Rights and Journalism,” which opened today, laid the ground for professors and lecturers to reflect on how to introduce a course for ten journalism faculties and schools from Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.
This forum is expanding efforts to embed a greater understanding of children`s rights into journalism practice for reporters at the start of their careers.

At Issyk Kul, experienced professors and deans of journalism discussed the syllabus – Children’s Rights and Journalism Practice. The syllabus was developed by the Dublin Institute of Technology commissioned by UNICEF Regional Office for Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States in 2007. It has since been adapted and used by 23 tertiary institutions in six countries in the region and in Ireland and Turkey.

Timely

For Kyrgyzstan, it is a very timely discussion. The Republic is preparing to switch to the two-grade Bologna system (bachelor and master) and curriculum revision commissions are now working to develop new state standards,” explained Dr. Abdygany Khalilov, the journalism dean of the National Kyrgyz State University. “Two of us here are members of the commission and we hope to bring with us strong arguments for this useful course.”

Michael Foley, a lecturer from the Dublin Institute of Technology and former news reporter for the Irish Times, said, “As one of the developers of this course, I had a belief of its importance but I still was surprised how much my students, who are closer to childhood, liked and appreciated it so much.”  

The forum was also addressed by guest resource person, Dr. Esra Arcan, from Istanbul University, one of seven universities in Turkey which have adapted the syllabus and supporting materials for lecturers and students. 

“It is an optional course but about 90 per cent of student chose it,” she said, citing how students remarked on its usefulness and relevancy. “Most of my students got excellent marks.”

© UNICEF/2012/O`Neill
Participants finish the forum on journalism and child rights.

Arguments for the course are not difficult to find. Each of the countries delegation presented on the media landscape and how their local media reported on children issues. At times, the media mispresented or did not bother to ask children of their views.

Such issues like working children in the cotton fields are taboo for our media said a participant. “Children are not heard. Adults decide what they should feel and think,” reported another.

UNICEF in the Kyrgyz Republic, the hosting organization, hopes that the forum will unite efforts of individual children’s advocates and create a solid platform for students of journalism to learn how to report on children’s rights, how to interview them and listen to them and have a wider impact the child rights environment in the country.

Kyrgyzstan has already undertaken steps to implement some sections of the syllabus as part of other disciplines in the Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University, in a specialized school class at School no. 12, and as master classes at the Kyrgyz National University.

Prior to the forum, foreign guests had a chance to visit some of the open lessons, talk to students and teachers. “We were amazed at how school age children can debate and argue in the discussion of the child rights,” said Prof. Noirin Hayes from Dublin Institute of Technology.

Supporting materials

In addition to the basic syllabus and teacher`s guide, the participants also discussed a specially adapted material prepared by Aijamal Arzymatova from Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University.

“Journalists often violate children’s rights simply because they don’t know the laws. My task is to prepare a pocket guide with a set of answers to legal questions on rights and responsibilities of journalists in their work with children and in the preparation materials on children,” she explained. It will be a pocket guide for journalists. 

The participants will leave the forum with plans in their mind and all the necessary materials in their hands, points taken from the experiences of piloting countries and an online platform for further discussion.

But the main challenge is ahead; how to make it work in their own countries so that children and their rights are visible in the media and that journalistic work is enriched by the unique world of childhood.    

 

 

 

 

Central Asian Forum 2012

Please click on the links here below to see the agenda, presentations, materials and participant list from the forum.

Central Asia Forum agenda and presentation

Journalism education and child rights university level course expands in Central Asia

Photos from the forum.


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Find out more about why UNICEF is supporting journalism education at a university level so students better understand child rights for their future journalism pratice.

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