Monday, September 5, 2011
In Colombia, the program Connact Now! works with local school radios to support information exchange across regions and promote the recognition of children's rights. In August, students, teachers and professionals got together for a first workshop.

Hear the unheard

Challenges in (post-) conflict areas require new initiatives to increase spreading of information, to hear the former unheard, and to optimize existing efforts in supporting children and young people affected by conflict. The overall program goal of Conn@ct Now! is to inform, encourage and directly support children and young people to exercise their rights through the help of media technology.

In the beginning of August, the first project phase of the Conn@ct Now! program was held in Bogota, Colombia. The workshop 'School Radios in Colombia: Conn@ct Now!' was a 3-day pilot experience which brought together students and school teachers in charge of school radios linked to the Colombian Ministry of Education as well as researchers studying the growing interest in school radio initiatives and allowed them to exchange experiences and together reflect upon the work. The workshop was attended by more than 40 people linked to school-radio activities from Arauca, Boyacá, Bolívar, Cauca, Cundinamarca, Huila, Putumayo, Santander and Tolima, and from Bogota, as well as delegates from civil society organizations, the Ministry of Education and representatives of private corporations.

A diverse community

In the case of Colombia, there are some 400 highly diverse school radios currently active. While some of them broadcast within the local school facilities, others are working with program slots in community radio stations and a few use the Internet as a global communication channel. Crossing this diversity, the workshop initiated regional and national cooperation networks to broaden their own work and learn from other experiences.

The relevance of online media

One common challenge that all participants see, is the need to use digital media to remain relevant in the coming years. Another difficulty that producers of school-radio programs encounter is a lack of legal recognition of their existence that excludes access to low-power broadcasting frequencies. At the same time, web radio is often difficult to set up, as Internet access, especially in rural areas, is relatively low.

Several participants expressed their hope that Conn@ct Now! could become a supporter of the development of school radios in Colombia, reinforcing their efforts for school radios to become useful tools in promoting children rights.

School radio for education

The experiences made in this pilot workshop form the basis for future steps within the Conn@ct Now! school radio program. Main goals for the coming time are formalizing the relationship between school radios with the Ministry of Education in order to implement their activities in the curriculum and develop pedagogical goals beyond mere entertainment for students.

Conn@ct Now! seeks to strengthen school- and community radios by promoting training in producing educational programs for media- and education-professionals. Another aim of the program is to develop partnerships with civil society organizations (CSOs) to promote children’s rights and implement child protection programs for their psychosocial well-being.

The workshop was coordinated by Juan Ferro (consultant for the Ministry of Education and researcher on school-radios in Colombia) and Amable Rosario (founder of the Latin American Regional Office of RNTC, coordinator of several international youth projects with UNICEF, UNESCO, PLAN, and Trust/OAS in Latin America). More information about Conn@ct Now can be found here.