The Executive Director of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), Ayisha Osori, says early education is a potent tool in tackling growing misinformation and disinformation in Nigeria.
Ms Osori, while giving opening remarks at the Kwame Karikari Fact-Checking and Research Fellowship, said building a questioning attitude in children would imbue in them a culture of seeking truth from early life.
The fellowship, now in its third year, is a brainchild of West Africa’s verification and fact-checking platform, Dubawa, under the auspices of the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ).
The lawyer cum communication strategist also said inculcating fact-checking into schools’ curriculum would help children discern the rudiments of truth and spur them to verify every information they come across.
“All these things are things that only a sound education can work against and that is part of the reason why you are here….,” she said addressing the fellows. “Child education to help them discern, to ask the question that you as adults would be asking yourself, is this true, is this correct? Can I verify it, does it make sense….”
She said the fellowship is part of the overall education solution to tackling the menace of information disorder.
“You are undertaking one of the most crucial tasks in the world today. Am I talking about the COVID-19? Well not that pandemic, but you all will be dealing with a different kind of pandemic with similar powers to destabilise us. We are talking about the weaponisation of information and the ascendancy of doubt which can only be managed with rigorous fact-checking.”
She further tasked the fellows on accurate fact-checking to sustain democracy which she noted is currently in the middle of a wave of misinformation and disinformation.
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“Misinformation has become one of the preferred instruments for discrediting the institutions of democracy, influencing the behaviour of voters, exploiting diversity and insecurities and creating disunity. As democracy progresses across the globe right now we are definitely in the middle of a wave where the wave is going down, and of course, we know it’s going to go up but while it is down, we have to do anything we can do”.
The Dubawa 2021 fellowship now christened Kwame Karikari Fact-Checking and Research Fellowship in honour of Ghanaian Professor, Kwame Karikari, is the third with its first in 2019.
This year’s fellowship has 26 fellows inducted with the aim of combating misinformation in the sub-region. Participants were drawn from Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, The Gambia and Liberia.