UNICEF has announced that it has developed a Child Rights Reporting course for adoption in mass communication departments of Nigerian universities and polytechnics. This is in line with the global agency’s principles and guidelines for media reporting on children. Geoffrey Njoku, who works with UNICEF, disclosed on March 23, 2023, that UNICEF collaborated with the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) to include the course in all the unbundled mass communication courses.
NUC is the agency responsible for the accreditation of courses in Nigerian universities. The commission had split mass communication into seven distinct courses. They are Journalism and Media Studies, Public Relations, Advertising, Broadcasting, Film and Multimedia Studies, Development Communication Studies, and Information and Media Studies. Now, UNICEF is organizing training for personnel to integrate the course in all these seven courses. This is in the hope that it would empower journalists-in-training with the capacity and understanding of the issues around child rights and how to report them in the media.
Nnamdi Azikwe University is working to domesticate the course.
Mr. Njoku said the global agency is training lecturers at Nnamdi Azikwe University, Awka because the university has domesticated the course into its journalism curriculum and the general studies course. They also hope to train polytechnic lecturers before the end of 2023. Mr. Njoku confirmed that when NUC was unbundling mass communication in universities, the agency was part and parcel of it. He stated that UNICEF is providing these personnel with the initial orientation and training to enable those to run the courses start.
A lecturer at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ) and facilitator at the training, Jide Johnson, confirmed in an interview that the course has been included in the general studies for all first-year and second-year National Diploma (ND) students of mass communication in the polytechnics. At the Higher National Diploma (HND) level where mass communication has been unbundled into three courses, students of all the three departments are to study Child Rights Reporting as a course. Mr. Johnson stated that he was part of the team that developed the curriculum, a process he started in 2016.
Children still face abuse despite the Child Rights Act.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo assented to the Child Rights Act in September 2003. As of 2023, Kano and Zamfara States are yet to assent to the bill. Chief of Field Officer at UNICEF’s Enugu office, Juliet Chiluwe, said that children still face a broad range of abuse, which emanates from ignorance of what constitutes a child’s right. In her presentation at the training, she commended Nnamdi Azikwe University for mainstreaming the child rights course in its curriculum and urged other universities to adopt the same measure.
According to UNICEF, media reporting on children and young people, should never expose them to risk. Because of this, the UN agency has developed principles and guidelines to help reporters and journalists report on children’s issues in such a way that the public’s interest is served without compromising the rights of children. The agency has developed six overall principles to follow, six guidelines for interviewing children, and seven principles for reporting on children’s issues. The first and most vital principle for media practitioners is to respect the dignity and rights of every child in every circumstance.
The guidelines for reporting on children are clearly highlighted by UNICEF.
UNICEF has published the guidelines for interviewing children and reporting on their issues in the media. Some of them include: not harming the child, avoiding questions or comments that are insensitive or judgmental, not discriminating, obtaining permission from the child and the child’s guardian before interviewing them, and avoiding staging. To report on any child’s issues, the report should not stigmatize the child, should always provide an accurate context, and should protect the identity of the child, such as name, sex, health status, etc. These principles and guidelines are part of what universities and polytechnics are to adopt as a course for the benefit of all children.