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Reaching African youth with educational radio

Guest commentary

Maja Braun, Coordinating Editor, Programs for Africa

Along with providing global audiences with quality news and information, we think international broadcasters should also be responsible for education, especially on social issues and topics that are a part of what Deutsche Welle stands for, such as democracy, civil rights and intercultural dialogue. And that is why we are always looking for new, innovative ways to make education work in different regions around the world – like, for example, in Africa.

Unlike other regions around the globe that have seen FM, shortwave and AM lose tremendous amounts of users in the last 15 years, radio has remained very important to people in Africa looking for information. It’s a big part of the media landscape and continues to draw listeners week in and week out. We have also seen a huge boom in mobile usage – the number of subscribers has increased by at least 20 percent in each of the last five years.

When we first developed Learning by Ear in 2008, we wanted to give young Africans – even those who cannot read or access the Internet – the opportunity to get information on important issues that would improve their lives immediately and in the future. It was important for listeners to learn, but we also wanted to keep them entertained. That is why we mainly use radio dramas to deliver the message of topics that are not taught in school.  Learning by Ear now plays a big role in the lives of many young people in Africa, offering radio dramas and feature stories on a variety of topics, ranging from political and societal issues to economic, health and environmental issues.

By working with mobile partners in Africa in the last few years, we have also been able to reach out to a new demographic and, hopefully, increase the level of social education among their customers. The unique, audio-based content is split up into individual series and segments – which makes it great for mobile consumption.

After five years and 42 different series with ten episodes each covering everything from health and hygiene to globalization, entrepreneurs and African success stories, we felt it was time for a change. We wanted to improve on the already successful format by providing a narrative that would help these young listeners in their daily lives; a story which accompanies them throughout the year instead of changing the scene every ten weeks.

With Crossroads Generation, we have created a Learning by Ear series which follows four characters as they confront challenges and learn from their mistakes. Listeners can get to know the characters better and will be more invested in what happens to them on the show. The episodes will deal with many issues simultaneously and the storyline will build on itself throughout the season.

The new format will also inspire young listeners to reflect on what they’ve heard and form their own opinions. One episode for example confronts teenage pregnancy and the actress decides to have an abortion. This decision is presented in a non-judgmental manner that allows for listeners to decide where they stand for themselves. There will also be a discussion platform available on Facebook where the audience can voice their ideas and opinions.

Other improvements include an online video-blog that will accompany every second episode and also adds a visual flavor to the series for the first time. The audience gets a look  behind the scenes and insight into how the characters feel. The video-blog will be included on the website and Facebook page. Their will also be a Learning by Ear theme song featured in each of the program’s six languages.

We are hoping that with this new series, we will be able to win over even more listeners and give them insights into how to help shape their own lives to be successful.



2013-11-14 | 9:53



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