The Timbuktu Institute (The African Center for Peace Studies)in collaboration with the Institute Francais in Dakar has held a civic conversation for young and vulnerable groups in Gambia on the theme, ‘Youth And The Media: Between Commitment And Civic Responsibility.
The forum which was held in the village of Kaninlai in the West Coast Regions brought together students and teachers from St.Antony’s Basic Cycle school, members of the media and a cross section of the local populace resident in Kanilai and other villages in the catchment area.
The forum sensitized students on social media’s negative and positive academic impacts. Social media can benefit students’ education in terms of research, but it can also negatively affect them by distracting them, disrupting their day to day activities, spreading rumors, unrealistic views of other people’s lives but also to some extent, it could lead to vulnerable groups fallen prey to extremist and radical groups operating in the sub-region.
Adji Awa Samb, Head of Cooperation and Regional Projects at Timbuktu Institute, said it is necessary to sensitize students because they are vulnerable and have no knowledge of cyber security.
She told the forum that unregulated internet usage could be dangerous for young people because scammers do not distinguish between young and old.
“I am delighte to have you all here. This shows that you are interested in the topic. Do not allow yourself to be distracted by social activities. Stay away from it as much as possible, but if you cannot, please use it wisely. You are all young and have a future to build. Take your education seriously, study hard and do research and always be open to your parents and teachers for discussions on issues that affect you and your education,” she opined.
Momodou Lamin Jaiteh, Kaba Communication’s manager, calls for constructive internet use. He urged the students to be aware of misinformation and disinformation and its dangers to society.He emphasized on the different role of traditional media and the new media(Social media)He said in the new media,everyone is a journalist where as in the traditional media,there are rules and regulations know as gate keepers.
“In a democracy, you need the information to make informed choices, but you should not allow yourself to spread false news,” he added.
Gallow Ceesay, a Teacher at St Anthony’s Basic Cycle School, said the interface could have been better than now, saying social media consumes students’ time.
He warned students to be aware of dirty websites, scammers, and imposters on the internet while encouraging them to always scrutinize information before sharing and desist from sharing misinformation and disinformation.
“Always compare the information with your teachers and be adaptive and conscious of analyzing posts,” he advised them.
Ousman Kujabi, Village Development Committee Chairman of Kanilai, also advised the students to use the internet wisely as it can improve their quest for knowledge
He said young people need to be counseled, thus calling on parents to monitor their children’s online activities.
Alpha Jallow, the Communication and Media Consultant for Timbuktu Institute, said their engagement with the students on youth access to the internet is because some of them can be brainwashed by individuals or organizations who might be working outside The Gambia by manipulating them in exchange for something.
“We believe if we start sensitizing them now on these issues, there is a possibility that they will not fall as victims.”
One participant intimated to me that this kind of sensitization campaign on the usage of social media will go along way in helping youths and other vulnerable groups to harness more knowledge and also differentiate what is ‘Good news and Fake news’
The Regional Director of Timbuktu Institute,the African Center for Peace studies Dr.Bakary Sambe who have not attended the forum in Gambia due to other egagements,expressed delight and thanked all the participants for a very successful event.He however promised to organise more events in The Gambia in the near future.
The seminar concluded with interactive discussions with students as well as contributions from stakeholders.
By Alpha Jallow