Media can play an essential function in assisting both the young and the old to read and write – that was the central message given during the last session on the first day of the inaugural Literacy Challenge Forum - an initiative from the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation - which is presently underway in Dubai.
Titled: ‘Media and its Role in Combating Illiteracy,’ the session featured Nashaat Eldeehy, CEO of TeN TV and Turkey Now Website, and Nadine Samra, Chief Business Officer, Weyyak by Zee Entertainment. The two executives discussed how their industry can be an effective device to promote fundamental education in those who can also have missed the chance for formal classroom learning.
During his participation, Eldeehy stated that there had been a proliferation of Arab media over the previous half century, highlighting that there are nearly 1,100 Arab TV channels - 20 of them being educational - 100 religious channels and 170 sports channels, however that media had been a transgressor and victim with respect to illiteracy up to this point, as levels of illiteracy in the region have remained stubbornly high.
“There was an Arab summit in 1970 where they had a suggestion that mentioned a rapid eradication of illiteracy in the Arab countries within 5 years. Can you think about that 50 years has passed – which is half a century – and we still did not attain 100% literacy rate and we are still discussing how to overcome this challenge? Yes, we know that wars and displacement contributed to the exacerbation of the problem, however there is a problem, there is a crisis, therefore there are the attempts to discover solutions. One serious strive at solutions is today’s gathering,” he said.
Among the problems that Nadine Samra raised was that present day media tools are able to assist those who are illiterate, with the privacy afforded by making use of Internet platforms meaning that they can search for what they prefer and with voice-activated applications able to assist them find the proper teaching programs to enhance their reading and writing skills.
“The first challenge is that the person who is illiterate is generally too shy to say so and too embarrassed to go to an education centre. The Internet means they can learn by themselves and maintain their privacy. The second project is how can the man or woman who is illiterate – who can't read and write - find the proper information they need? There are voice tools for this. Children who are three and four years old can search for anything on YouTube via using their voice. They simply press a button and give a voice command to get the content they are looking for. So even the illiterate person who can't read or write can search for content,” she said.
The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation’s Literacy Challenge Forum is held in collaboration with the UNDP and UNESCO and has the theme ‘Challenges and Solutions.’ Held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai, and under the directives of the foundation chairman H.H. Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the two-day event is providing an integrated platform for global literacy professionals and leaders to exchange knowledge and cooperate to get rid of illiteracy in the Arab world.