Community Media/COMNETA/COL Welcome Text

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Community Radio in Tanzania: Organisation and network development

Welcome Text

Ian Pringle, Commonwealth of Learning 25 May 2009

Title Remarks

On behalf of the Commonwealth of Learning, please allow me to welcome you to this workshop on organisational and network development for community radio in Tanzania.


The Commonwealth of Learning is an intergovernmental organisation created by Commonwealth Heads of Government twenty years ago to encourage the development of open and distance learning – or what we call ODL.

COL is based in Canada and therefore we work primarily with and through partner organisations – like AMARC and your new community radio network, like UNESCO and the World Health Organisation, like MISA-TAN and EcoNews Africa – which is why and how we are not actually present today at the start of this workshop. Our thanks to all the partners who have made this workshop possible. Special recognition to Rose and Marko at MISA-TAN and to Al-Amin at UNESCO Dar es Salaam.

Why ODL?

COL’s focus is ODL. Although open and distance learning is better known in the context of formal education – e.g. correspondence or distance education through universities leading to qualifications – there is a hugely important role for ODL in non-formal learning; learning about health, farming, entrepreneurship and other livelihoods skills.

The main premise for our focus on ODL and the use of media and other technologies as vehicles for learning is the massive disparity between 1) the need for education (ranging from secondary school curricula to vocational skills to nutrition) and 2) the capacity of the conventional, face-to-face, bricks-and-mortar institutions and approaches to education.

If learning needs and demand are a 10, the current capacity of conventional institutions is a 4. The lesson: we need *radically* new approaches if we have any hope of meeting goals like universal access to secondary education, improving maternal and child health and stopping the spread of HIV.

ODL enables education and learning at huge scale, for example there are some 1.4 million students at the Indira Gandhi Open University in India. Distance education is about expanding quality: for example, the UK Open University, with 180,000 students, ranked 5th out of 100 educational institutions in the UK for teaching quality in 2003-4. Your own open university in Tanzania, OUT, offers the same opportunity and potential.

ODL for non-formal learning is a new field, one with equally large scope. Educational institutions and development agencies as well as learners around the world look to us as leaders and innovators. We invite you to join with us in the coming month and years to explore and realise this enormous potential.

Why community radio?

ODL relies on technology of some kind to be the vehicle for learning content. COL believes that community media, particularly community radio, are especially important in this process, since these learning needs are often greatest in remote, rural and resource poor areas that often have limited access to electricity and other infrastructure, resources and services; and where community radio is a critical if not the only information and communication service. This is certainly the case in many areas of Tanzania where your radios are broadcasting.

Community radios are important for their ability to empower people. They excel at actualising people’s right to speak and be heard; at realising the principle of freedom of expression; what we often refer to as ‘voice,’ enabling people to participate at many levels in society and development. They are unique vehicles for news and local culture. They are also vital tools for education; however educational broadcasting and learning programmes are not easy to create, manage or sustain.

Challenges for community radio

Where community radio face great challenges are first in ensuring their own sustainability and second in addressing the information and content needs and *rights* of communities.

At COL, we believe that the road to sustainability is guided by community ownership and participation, goals that are largely determined by how a station organises itself: how it works with other local groups, how it manages volunteers, how it convinces development groups to fund its programmes.

Social sustainability and networking

More than financial, long-term sustainability is about social factors. We know this in part because while community radios across the world struggle to make ends meet, to pay their bills and keep their staff, these same stations rarely close because local communities depend on their services and always find a way to keep them on air.

We also know that for small often isolated organisations that are breaking new ground in rural often marginalised areas there is strength in numbers and strength in networks. By working together and helping each other, sharing experiences, content and resources, community radios are better able to meet challenges and to represent themselves as a social movement, one based in social justice and the development of communities across countries like Tanzania.

COL’s learning programme initiative

In the coming years, the Commonwealth of Learning will be running a wide-ranging programme to work with health, education and media groups, including community radios, to develop effective community-based learning programmes about different aspects of livelihoods and health, especially HIV/AIDS and in particular treatment.

Some of the participants here at this workshop will be able to share more with you about COL’s initiative for community learning programmes, what we call LearnShare.

We are committed to *working with you* to build capacities to design, develop and run appropriate learning programmes, ones that bring together a variety of partners and draw on local resources, human and financial; programmes that build explicitly on both effective community based organisations and strong national networks.

We are committed to supporting your efforts to develop your radio stations and a national network, with a view to addressing local development needs, particularly health and livelihoods.

Learn Share: Have a great workshop!

Among you here at this workshop are the skills and knowledge required to drive the growth and success of community radio in Tanzania. We invite you to share them and learn from each other.

Have a great workshop!