Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Computer literacy goes beyond email access – Omenugha

Head, Mass Communication department, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, Dr. (Mrs) Kate Azuka Omenugha in a chat with our senior reporter, REMMY NWEKE at the African Council for Communications Education Conference (ACCE-09), recently at the University of Legon, Accra-Ghana, says that computer literacy goes beyond access to electronic mails.

Effect of ICT in communications delivery? 
In a conference like this one, you have a range of papers, discussions and issues that have been raised in this conference and part of the things that have been discussed is Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Africa. Somebody presented a paper describing Africa as being at a cross road in ICT. I presented a paper looking at the negative and positive sides of use of Information and Communications Technology by Nigerian students of Nnamdi Azikiwe University.

Africans have advanced in the use of ICT but we are not where we ought to be.
There are problems of money and break down in server which has affected the advancement of Africans in the use of ICT.

We looked at the application of ICT by Nigerians and we found a lot of them use it for negative purposes, people distracting in the class. We find the students lack in the use of the materials they find in the internet.

The word plagiarism means nothing to them. Some of them visit pornographic sites, they play games in the class. It has empowered some of them who have used it to contact people they would not have been able to meet before.

We found that it affects their studies because some of the language they use like in the text messages and email they have imported into their academic uses. They use a lot of abbreviations, what has been called anti-language.
What could be the solution? 

That is part of the challenges that will be facing academic scholars, researchers, educators in Africa, especially Nigeria. It is part of what we need to prepare our minds to how we can combat the negative uses. We need to talk about improving their computer literacy and education. It is not being able to access the internet and using the computer that is literacy, they need to understand the implications of some of the things they do. Some of them have no idea of what we call intellectual property, they need to be taught that and there is need to include that in the curriculum in the universities so that students can understand the ethical implication in what they do.
On the issue of plagiarism don’t you think the educationists in the communications sector are not doing enough in this regard?
I agree with you. But I still see a lot of positive uses which we have to try and strengthen. But students I have spoken to know that it is only the entertainment aspect that they dwell on but we need to put some punitive measure so that when they do not conform to certain principles and uses of these ICTs they get some sort of punitive measure for their action. So, I believe we have not really channeled our minds to trying to do something, but again, that is one of the challenges we are facing
What is your view on gender participation, first at this conference, and then within the field of mass communications?
 If you look at the conference here, you will see that the women here are, perhaps, 20, 30 per cent and mass communications has always been a male dominated area. Somebody did a research on the gender balancing in communication education between what we have in the classroom and the profession. As educators we wonder why as students we have more women in the classrooms but fewer in the profession.
What do you think is responsible for women quitting for other profession on graduation from the school of communications?
They do not really divert, sometimes, they get married to men who open shops for them or put them at home. As a matter of fact, what I do with my students in the mass communications department is that I get their address and ask them to write me when they get a job. I started that last year. I want to be able to do that for four to five years so that I can actually say this is where my students go on graduation. I hope to call them by September for those that left last year, I want to carry out my research to know where they go. It will be too tasking financially making these calls, but that is the only way you can know, we cannot know by just reading their bylines. I want to hear them say where they are, may be, in the bank or wherever.
Don’t you think the economic implication may be responsible?
It is not just the economic implication, but gender implication. I do not think in Nigeria, for example, a woman will ask the man to stay at home and become a house husband. It is more common for a man to say ‘you be a housewife after a result of academics.’ It is the question of culturally-defined roles for men and women.
So, it is more of gender than economy. Apart from keeping a home, most of the things women do, they do not get paid. They need to go beyond just being a housewife or mother. It is not economic but gender implication that I am concerned about.
What do you think the government can do in terms of policy formulation?

What I have always said about this is that government needs to provide an opportunity for women to advance themselves. Every woman would want to be a mother, so to be a mother and also a professional. People talk about exclusive breast-feeding yet most secondary schools do not have day-care centres. I taught in secondary school for 10 years, and as a mother I had to carry my baby on my back teaching. Government will need to know that if women are to be mothers, there is need to provide enabling environment. We can have day-care centres attached to every secondary school. So, it is a question of treating people equally as human beings knowing that a woman will have to advance her career.

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