Improving Educational Equity In Cameroon: Radio As An Educational Medium

Updated: Jul 29, 2021



The analysis looks into the development of radio stations and outlines the possible challenges for promoting educational radio programmes throughout the nation. The main method used by the researcher in this study is the literature review, including a range of relevant websites, journal articles and official reports.


The growth of radio stations in Cameroon has accelerated during the Covid-19 with more private stations aimed to improve regional development. Cameroon is facing some challenges of setting educational radio programmes, and this includes the uneven distribution of radio stations around the nation that may cause education inequality, the declining quality of radio content in some private radio stations and students in the community are finding it hard to obtain academic-related programmes.


Like many African countries, Cameroon is aimed to develop into an emerging nation in 2035 by setting policies and millennial goals (Teke, C., 2012). The government has prioritized ICT (Information Communication Technologies) development in the domain of economy, culture, social and education in all state sectors, with specifical extraction on ICT in the education domain (Teke, C., 2012). The radio programme has been seen as one of the channels to achieve overall development.

According to the report by Global Information Society Watch in 2008, ‘radio penetration is relatively high [in Cameroon], with 75% of urban homes and 55.1% of rural ones owning a radio’ (APC, Hivos and ITeM, 2008). Listening to the radio in three languages (English, French and local languages) is a popular casual activity in families in Cameroon (APC, Hivos and ITeM, 2008). Similar to educational TV programs, educational radio programming can also be an excellent tool to keep children engaged in academics and implement distance learning for those in disadvantaged areas. UNESCO, who set up multi-collaborations with third world countries also, stated that ‘The use of radio and television broadcast as distance learning solutions is a powerful way to bridge the digital divide in the education sector and reach the most marginalized learners’ (“Learning through radio and television in the time of COVID-19”, 2020).


Previous research and studies have focused on how the radio programme developed in recent years. However, the application of radio is rarely studied directly on how Cameroonians use the radio and how radio platforms are used as educational tools. This paper is aimed to look at the development trend of radio programmes using meta-analysis on previous studies and reports, and the possible challenges for promoting educational radio programmes throughout the nation.


Radio platforms and their accelerating growth


The radio programme has been seen as a more effective tool of supporting local development through the provision of information for all (Ekaney, N., 1976), than any other form of media. It enables disadvantaged populations access to the information they need to achieve sustainable development. The government of Cameroon and leaders viewed radio as essential to promote its local economic, social, educational and political structures (Ekaney, N., 1976) and encouraging programmes that consist of agriculture, health, rural and urban development content for the mass audience.


In Alobwede’s report (2006) of Cameroon media development, the radio sector grew by 80 stations between 2000 and 2005. This development is led by its state-run radio station (Cameroon Radio Television) as the only Cameroonian station with a national footprint. Although many of the new private stations had been created between 2000 and 2005 and are regional in footprint, only a few drew larger audiences than the state radio service in their regions. However, some of the larger regional private stations were getting larger audiences than the state CRTV channels.


As many of the radio programmes are aimed to improve regional development, community radio platforms have been promoted to encourage local development. For villages with limited access to information about education and nutrition, radio programmes allow them to study and improve their living qualities. The Government of Cameroon has received US$5.8 million from the African Development Bank for the creation of 26 community radio stations ("Support for local development through community radio stations in Cameroon", n.d.). This project will be managed by the Regional UNESCO Office in Yaoundé ("Community radios promote local development across Africa", n.d.).


Nevertheless, radio platforms have also provided peace education for Cameroonians during political conflicts around the nation. With the support from the EU, UNICEF and Cameroon government have set up radio education programmes for children who were impacted in the Lake Chad crisis ("Radio programs help keep children learning in the Lake Chad crisis", 2017). 1.3 million children who have been removed due to the violent conflict with Boko Harma were provided with this innovative radio education programme, and 200,000 children who are unable to reach school in North Cameroon and the Differ region of Niger were provided with alternative platforms.


Public and private providers


Radio stations in Cameroon include public, privately owned and foreign stations. There are 33 public radio broadcasting stations (national and provisional radio stations) that are managed by Cameroon Radio Television (Alobwede, C. E., 2006), which covered 85% of the country (APC, Hivos and ITeM, 2008). The government also has 39 private radio stations and 26 community stations to improve radio coverage. With the support of outside organizations, like UNESCO, community radio stations have assisted the rural population in getting educational and informational programs.


The list below shows the most well-known stations in each sector: ("Cameroon profile - media", 2020)


Public radio stations

  • Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV)

Private owned stations

  • Radio Reine - Catholic station

  • Radio Siantou - private

Foreign stations

  • BBC World Service radio

  • Radio France international (RFI)

The distribution of private radio stations is listed below:

The total number of private radio stations in Cameroon in 2017 is 139: 63 are rural community radio stations, 29 are religious community radio stations, 7 are university community radio stations and 40 are commercial radio stations. The Centre region has the highest number of private radio stations with the North West region coming second. The East region has the highest number of rural community radio stations followed by the North West region. The Littoral has the highest number of commercial radio stations as well as the highest number of religious community radio stations. As we can see most of the private radio stations are rural community radio stations, this is because that 42% of the population of Cameroon lives in the rural areas and that the state-owned radio stations are not received in most of the rural areas (Muluh, H., 2017).


Overall, the map below shows a whole picture of the location of radio stations in Cameroon, indicating that most of the radio stations are set up in highly urbanised centres, like Nkwen and Central town in Bamenda and Akwa and Deido in Douala.


Radio education in Covid-19


The breakout of Covid-19 forced educational institutions to deliver technology-based teaching to their students since schools and universities were ordered to shut down. The challenge for the government was to find out which of the various technologies (radio, television, internet, digital platforms, communication and storage tools) was the most accessible and easily manageable in a context of unequal access to communication tools in a short time (Béché, E., 2020). The pandemic has fastened the development of educational media around the globe; thus, research that is used to examine the effect of the pandemic can also be used to reflect the growth of educational radio programmes.

The report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (2020)

stated that low-income countries relied more heavily on broadcast media, including radio (93 per cent) and television (92 per cent), to provide education content remotely during school closures, while the use of online platforms is lower, at 64 per cent, likely due to low internet penetration in these environments.


Radio lessons have been promoted as one way to ensure pedagogic continuity during the Covid-19. For example, Cameroon Radio Television, the national broadcasting company, was transformed into a classroom and presented in defined time slots to guide children studying at home (Béché, E., 2020, p.8).


Challenges of Radio Education


1) Educational inequality & Regional disparities


In Ekaney’s study (1976) about radio’s national development through the degree of exposure to a mass audience, the radio programme was still restricted in the urban districts and failed to pass information to the rural area. This is because the medium of radio was the urban character, radio was an elite medium and average Cameroonians still suffered economic restrictions in purchasing radio educational opportunities between rural and urban areas (Ekaney, N., 1976). Nevertheless, the recent research by Muluh (2017) on the distribution of radio stations across the nation found that many stations are set up in CBD and highly economic areas. Conversely, 42% of the population of Cameroon live in rural areas where national radio services cannot be received. This has shown that although many private stations have aimed to improve regional development, many of them are still in urban districts. This is problematic because this has caused regional disparities in receiving education resources. Children in rural areas are still in a more disadvantageous position than children in urban districts since they are unable to receive more information.

2) Radio programme quality

The report by Alobwede (2006) has highlighted that radio production quality was facing obstacles due to the decline in staff standards. Although there was an increasing number of radio stations, many new radio stations were set up without skilful journalists. A number of private media organisations used mostly unemployed university graduates who did not have other jobs. Such journalists did not have a good understanding of the ethics and norms that guide the profession. A similar situation might occur when there are more and more educational radio programmes. The quality of teachers might experience a similar decline as the nation required rapid growth in the educational programme. Furthermore, many stations lack adequate equipment (Alobwede, C. E., 2006) to present radio content with good quality. All these factors might influence the outcome of the educational radio programme.


3) Radio education in the community

Radio education is not commonly applied in higher education in Cameroon as one of the ICT strategies; it is more for community education. Studies reported that most of the universities in Cameroon are using technologies like online platforms for lectures and social applications for group discussion (Teke, C., 2012). Radio platforms are not popular among teachers and students, especially in the college context. It is critical to say radio education should be encouraged among higher education, specifically in Cameroon since similar ICT strategies are also used in developed countries’ institutions. As the students enter college, the college can provide them with stable internet and online platforms. In such a case, the content of educational radio programmes is restricted in providing content that is available for the community-based audience. However, the age range of a community can be broad. It is hard to produce a programme that suits everyone in the community. The general information that relates to health can be used as one of the topics, but for students in the community who require a more academic programme, suitable topics are hard to find.


Conclusion


To conclude, radio education is mainly used in community-based education instead of in higher education in Cameroon to promote education to a mass audience. However, many obstacles are faced by the Cameroonians on receiving educational radio programmes, especially for those who are in rural areas. Rural children still suffered regional disparities in receiving information due to the uneven distribution of radio stations. The content of the radio programme produced by some private radio stations is problematic. Furthermore, students in the community are struggling in receiving academic base content from the community radio programme.


Furthermore, there are limited resources online about the educational radio programmes in Cameroon and how children react to them, which shows a lack of empirical studies on such an issue. But this might be due to the researcher bias and limited access to some resources.



Bibliography


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