Media literacy education in South Africa can help combat fake news

On the net platforms are replete with examples of untrue details – from WhatsApp messages punting some miraculous treatment for COVID, to social media posts proclaiming a politician explained one thing they did not.

It is ever more widespread in South Africa. More than 75% of South Africans say they often occur throughout political information they imagine is bogus. Eight out of 10 South Africans feel that disinformation (or “fake news”) is a issue or a severe challenge in the state.

Scientists and policy makers have been functioning on techniques to counter disinformation for decades. Some policymakers have proposed new polices or pressuring technologies businesses to do additional. These actions usually elevate the query of how to harmony free speech and regulation.

A different option is to raise the levels of media literacy among the citizens. Media literacy refers to the means to go through media texts critically, comprehending the marriage among media and audiences, and knowing how media creation processes get the job done. In diverse pieces of the world, research has proven that producing individuals additional media literate can assist decrease the spread of disinformation.

We lately worked with Africa Check, the biggest truth-examining organisation in Africa, to map out the status of media literacy teaching in five South African provinces.

In a new report, we explain which media literacy competencies are and are not taught in large educational institutions and universities, and what is halting schools and educators from teaching them.

The study is portion of a larger undertaking to create resources for media literacy in the country.

We observed that South Africa lacks a extensive countrywide media literacy programme. Typically it will come down to unique teachers and universities to make learners much more media literate.

Some skills are taught in distinct topics, these kinds of as existence orientation, technologies, language, or heritage. This indicates media literacy material is fragmented, subtle, and minimal. Learners are taught how to use the media, how to continue to be safe and sound on-line and how to develop media information, but much considerably less emphasis falls on how to point-look at and validate the media.

Only one particular of the provinces we surveyed, the Western Cape, tried using to carry out a module on on-line protection for grades 8 to 12 in 2020 in partnership with Google. Its adoption across educational institutions was constrained since of the COVID outbreak in the identical calendar year.

The study

Our report is the initially in South Africa to study educators at equally faculties and universities about their views on the will need to teach media literacy to overcome the unfold of disinformation on-line. The conclusions are centered on the responses to an on-line study provided by 281 educators. We also organised focus groups and conducted interviews with policymakers, educators, and media professionals.

We questioned them how productive media literacy programmes are, what is at the moment remaining taught at colleges, and what challenges they see in the implementation thereof.
We also explored the electronic capabilities amounts of academics and learners, and impediments in the way of broader electronic access.

Our research discovered that educators in South Africa agreed with the statement that information literacy is critical to democracy and that raising the volume of time invested teaching media literacy would assistance minimize the total of disinformation circulating in schools (and online, in standard).

A everyday living orientation teacher that we talked to mentioned teaching media literacy was “essential” simply because

we’re dealing with everyday true cases, and the children can’t establish what is genuine and what’s fake, simply because they really do not know it.

All the stakeholders provided in our research, from educators at various concentrations of their vocation to policymakers and experienced media researchers, agreed on the great importance of media literacy. But they had unique sights on what particularly should really be taught.

For case in point, superior university educators had been far more inclined to introduce learners to how to use unique media gadgets, come across trusted information sources and be mindful of their on the net conduct. University lecturers focused more on how to obtain and critically examine details gleaned from the media.

On the internet protection also showcased substantial on the list of crucial subjects to include amongst significant faculty instructors. One particular rationale for this may be that learners often deal with on the internet harassment and bullying, “catfishing” (men and women working with untrue on the web profiles) frauds and similar difficulties.

Academics are the first line of defence when dealing with all those concerns in schools. Above 90% of teachers we surveyed claimed they experienced seen occasions of learners sharing misinformation and rumours as the graphic beneath reveals.

Inequities in obtain and bureaucratic procedures

We found that media literacy teaching in substantial school is impeded by quite a few things. Of these, inequities in access to digital gadgets and on the web resources is the most major. Obtain to the internet is probable at most schools. But obtain at house is not similarly popular. Since training media literacy capabilities usually involves the use of digital equipment and entry to the world wide web, these inequities are an critical hurdle.

Other impediments include things like the bureaucratic processes bordering the implementation of new curricula in South African universities, deficiency of time and components, and the linguistic diversity across the country’s schools, which would require the improvement of media literacy resources in distinctive languages.

One ultimate impediment is the lack of teaching of educators on the equipment and competencies required to be media literate. We identified widespread arrangement that not all teachers are properly plenty of equipped with media literacy techniques. Two in five superior school teachers feel they deficiency the appropriate teaching.

Most of the difficulties we identified appeared to occur across the five provinces surveyed in the report.

A way ahead

We make quite a few tips on how to boost the amount of money of media literacy taught in South African educational facilities.

Initially, we caution towards one-measurement-fits-all methods. These are certain to fall short for the reason that of differences in obtain and assets throughout colleges. Care must also be taken to acquire components in the language most commonly made use of by learners. Products should really also be age-proper and with reference to precise lived experiences of the communities the place they will be employed.

Next, media literacy training components really should have a robust target on cell phones as autos for delivery, due to their prevalence throughout the state.

3rd, offered the bureaucratic impediments to establishing and rolling out media literacy curricula countrywide, departments of education in every single province should really be engaged in media literacy curriculum organizing.

Last but not least, involving educators and reality-examining organisations, which are at the forefront of the battle against disinformation, must also be a precedence.