Tracing UNESCO’s World Radio Day
Published On February 15, 2014 » 2309 Views» By Davies M.M Chanda » Features
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IMAGINE the world without radio! Probably there would be less of “Have you heard” and definitely news would take forever to reach the intended recipients.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proposed February 13 as World Radio Day at its 36th session of the General Conference in line with the date when the  United Nations Radio was founded in 1946.
The proposal was a follow up to a request made by the Spanish Radio Academy on September 20, 2010. By September 29, 2011, the UNESCO Executive Board approved the recommendation.
The whole idea behind this was to celebrate radio as a medium of communication, to improve international cooperation between broadcasters, to encourage major networks and to promote access to information, freedom of expression and gender equality over the airwaves.
It goes without saying that as radio continues to evolve in the digital age, it remains the medium that reaches the widest audience worldwide.
Moreover, it is an ideal channel to further UNESCO’s commitment to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.
This year’s commemoration sets to sensitise radio station owners, executives, journalists, and Government to develop gender-related policies and strategies for radio.
On the same agenda rests the desire to eliminate stereotypes and to promote a multidimensional portrayal in radio, to build radio skills for youth production, with a focus on girls as producers, hosts reporters and to promote safety of women radio journalists.
UNESCO classifies radio in education as an ICT tool used for teaching-learning processes tracing back from as far back as the 1920s.
The organisation also regards radio as a powerful mass medium used in education for disseminating information, imparting instruction and giving entertainment.  Examples are given of United Kingdom where Radio is used as an effective and interesting tool, both for formal and non-formal education.
In the United Kingdom, education was taken up through radio just after two years of starting broadcasting in 1922. This was with initiation of the British Broadcasting Company.
Radio can equally be used for adult literacy, to fight illiteracy where broadcast programming substitutes for teachers on a temporary basis.
Further, in school broadcasting, where broadcast programming provides complementary teaching and learning resources not otherwise available.
Radio also opens the community to, national and international stations thereby providing general and informal educational opportunities.
The most notable and best documented example of the direct class teaching approach is called Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI).
This consists of ‘ready-made’ 20-30 minute direct teaching and learning exercises to the classroom via radio on a daily basis.
The Radio lessons are developed around specific learning objectives at particular levels of mathematics, science, and language.
They are intended to improve the quality of classroom teaching and to act as a regular, structured aid to poorly trained classroom teachers in under-resourced schools.
World Radio Day celebrations take different forms ranging from audio to video messages from prominent figures, radio talk shows and school debates.
The idea is to reach as many people as possible and encourage learners to listen to Educative and informative Radio, which is a powerful tool for information dissemination.
Other activities would include interviews of prominent female broadcaster son the  benefits of radio, documentaries and discussions.
UNESCO recognises radio is an important tool for the empowerment of the poor, the excluded and the marginalized. Radio is that friend who does not discriminate!
That friend who gives a voice to the voiceless. Radio is also seen as a tool from which the poor can obtain information to empower themselves as well as make their voices heard in the national democratic-making process.
Since radio provides for a wide coverage in various areas, it can be used to promote positive cultural practices.
Zambia takes pride in promoting, showcasing and preserving its culture heritage.
It is a fact however, that culture is not static, it is dynamic and must adapt to changing circumstances.
Traditional leaders, as custodians of culture and tradition, play a key role on matters of culture.
Their role in promoting positive cultural practices on the one hand and advocating for the discarding or modification of cultural practices that are considered harmful, cannot be over emphasised.
Radio as a communication tool helps to empower citizens.
Through the use of radio, citizens can discuss various developmental and culture issues.
Radio does not discriminate as it reaches to everyone, including people in remotest areas of the country.
The proper use of radio can help society work towards the elimination of racial discrimination and stereotyping. It can also promote societal harmony and team spirit.
Discussions, talk shows, phone in programmes and other modes promote tolerance, positive cultural practices and at the same time eradicate the harmful behaviour.
A few examples of some positive cultural practices that deserve promotion and preserving including:  family insaka discusions, initiation practices that include traditional circumcision schools for boys,
initiation of young girls into adulthood, pride in preserving one’s virginity, all of which constitute “schools of life” that transform boys and girls into men and women, respectively.
As in all things, abuse of these practices must be guarded against.
Traditional leaders, more than anybody else, are better placed to influence their communities to promote positive cultural practices since they command respect and influence in their respective rural communities.
Radio has a wider audience compared to other modes of communication since it cuts through the airwaves. Happy World Radio Day to all radio lovers!
(The author is Chief Programmes Officer, Zambia National Commission for UNESCO)

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