Determined Fighter against Disinfodemic: UNESCO Abuja is taking actions
It’s 6:30 a.m. in Abuja, the sun just bloomed on the horizon, golden petals stretching outwards, and the skies were sending signals to Nigerians to go out and begin their daily activities. On this Monday morning, Macaulay Olushola was already on his second cup of tea and working on a number of things, including a project concept to address the disinfodemic in conflict prone environments, a webinar presentation of COVID-19 communication perceptions, and preparations for the five meetings he had scheduled for that day.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the spread of fake news and rumors has contributed to a worldwide crisis of disinfodemic. Macaulay, working with UNESCO as the National Programme Officer for the Communication and Information (CI) Sector, was soon to discover that his work on Media and Information Literacy would propel him and his team to the frontlines of the fight to eliminate and reverse the adverse effects of mis- and dis-information outbreaks. Luckily for him, setting up a camp inside his home was a smooth and quick transition: his wife, Kehinde and their three kids, Emperor, Damilola and Toluwa, are attuned to his dedication to his job, as a result they were conscious not to disturb him when it comes to his office routines.
“Daddy’s workloads seem to have increased since he started working from home. We do honestly understand how much he loves his work. Unfortunately we thought we could get the better part of him while working from home, but your guess is as good as mine.” His soft-spoken fourteen-year-old son, Emperor said, with mixed smiles.
Macaulay joined UNESCO Abuja in 2016. He is the brain behind a series of interlinked interventions, such as regional investigations on communication perceptions on COVID-19, regional webinars, call-for competitions to engage large audience groups in media literacy campaigns to combat the accompanying disinfodemic, all of which are undertaken by UNESCO Abuja Regional Office, covering Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Togo.
To date, five webinars, two call-for competitions, and a host of other activities have been implemented. Considering the relatively low literacy rate in the region, with Nigeria as an instance where according to UNESCO Institute of Statistics, 62% of people aged 15 and above are described as literate in 2018, a remarkably low figure compared to the global average of 86%, the Sector designed complementary public education interventions, relying more on audio and visual expressions, to have a wider reach among the population. As such, a seven-clip educational drama radio “Tell Me Something”, was designed in Pidgin English (a pan-Nigerian lingua franca with different versions spoken in other West African countries). Through storytelling, reliable information on COVID-19 on prevention and transmission were embedded. Millions of people across all the geopolitical zones of Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Liberia were reached.