Media plays a vital role when it comes to informing the public on what’s happening around the world, which is as well helpful to students who need to be updated on the current issues surrounding them.
One of the channels to achieve this, educationists say is to use newspapers as a teaching aid, especially as a tool to promote the reading culture where a lot of efforts have been invested by the government and other stakeholders.
One agency using this mechanism successfully already is Rwanda Teachers Education Programme (RTEP) in Rwamagana District; a programme that aims at increasing the effectiveness of Rwandan teachers and a new brand of local educational leaders.
According to the director of the programme, Dr Joseph Olzacki, they are using newspapers as a mode of training English language to teachers who are supposed to pass the same information to their fellow teachers as well as students.
He notes that the use of newspapers as a teaching tool is very important to students because it doesn’t only provide authentic and real news, but also gives students knowledge on the use of English language. Newspapers, he says provide different perspectives, ranging from business to lifestyle trends, as well as topical world events, among others.
“When teachers use newspapers in classroom, it helps students to look at things in a bigger scope and it improves their critical thinking skills since they cover a wide range of things all in one pack,” he says.
Olzacki adds that through a newspaper, students can listen, read and practice pronunciations thus become better consumers of the news and language.
Joseph Rutakamize, the director of the science unit at Rwanda Education Board (REB), believes that the prime mission of a newspaper is to give information to the people, including students.
As such, some articles should be selected by teachers to illustrate their lessons depending on subjects or items targeted, he says.
“Newspapers are more current than textbooks. There is a lot of information which can boost the performance of students in general,” he says.
Jacky Irabagiza, a matron and counsellor at Remera Martyrs School in Kigali, says through newspapers students learn different skills, for example, how one can use photography to tell a story, which is very enriching to learners who are talented in arts.
For Julius Zigama, the founder of GAMA Arts Rwanda, newspapers can be used as resources for clubs like the writers and arts clubs.
He says newspapers can be good tools of teaching students how to come up with a project the way newspapers do.
“They are very helpful in language improvement if read frequently. They help improve the general knowledge as they reflect the current status of the country,” he says.
Emmy Ntigurirwa, an English and Swahili languages teacher at GS Marie Reine Ruramba in Nyamagabe District, says it’s important to use newspapers as a teaching aid because they bring real world problems to the classroom.
Newspapers can also contribute in enhancing literacy, and is an important educational resource as well.
Ntigurirwa notes that schools that use newspapers daily promote the reading, writing, listening as well as speaking skills, which are fundamental in students’ academic performance.
Promotes practical work
Diana Nawatt, the head teacher at Mother Mary Complex in Kigali, is of view that learning basically should be 70 per cent practical through teaching aids like newspapers using real life stories written, and 30 per cent theory so as to produce an all-round child.
She says newspapers can be used in teaching subjects like English, science, geography, business studies, sports, as well as music.
Olzacki points out that newspapers are helpful at all levels of education, but emphasises that the earlier younger students start using newspapers, the more informed they will become at a higher level.
Wendy Nelson Kauffman, an instructor at RTEP, says including newspapers as teaching aids gives students a bigger picture of what they see and read daily, both in school and after school.
She notes that reading newspapers can help both teachers and students practice reading skills.
Kauffman adds that newspapers are particularly relevant in education because they are made up of real life stories about current events taking place in their country and the world at large.
How they can be used
Fred Atinga, a teacher at Riviera High School, says first and foremost, a newspaper is affordable and reaches a wide network of people and topics. Therefore, he says teachers can use newspapers during revision as well as in their daily lessons.
“Teachers should take the responsibility of sharing with students stories happening outside the school environment through the newspaper,” he says.
Nawatti says generally, this can be done by learners being provided newspapers regularly and being encouraged to read them in order to base their lessons on the stories practically like in business studies or entrepreneurship. These facts according to her, will stimulate learning hence producing competent learners.
Nawatti also notes that students benefit through receiving first-hand information which is based on facts in the newspaper.
“Teachers should allow learners to select articles that interest them and focus on one aspect. This makes learning more fun and engaging for the students,” she adds.
For instance, Nawatti says teachers can first use newspapers for the purpose of reading only, then after, they can introduce how to use them to improve their speaking and listening skills.
Erick Nkusi, a parent who resides in Kibagabaga, Kigali, is of the view that parents should buy newspapers once in a while as they may not be readily accessible at school.
He says this is just one way of promoting the reading culture while at home.
“As parents, we also have to set a good example for our children. Apart from the English newspaper, there are also other newspapers in the local dialect which are still important because they enable both children and parents to remain updated on current affairs,” he says.
On the other hand, Rita Uwimana, another parent in Kigali, says it is the role of parents and teachers to create a generation of readers to build competence in society by providing reading materials, including newspapers.
“Just like reading books, students should be encouraged to go through newspapers to be informed on what’s happening on the daily basis,” she says.
Uwimana adds that exposing students to such reading materials is one way of breaking the monotony of reading textbooks, which improves the learning environment.
Additionally, she points out that it’s through such materials that students can draw inspiration, especially from leaders from across the sectors who are being written about.
Beatrice Kabanda, university student
Teachers can promote a reading culture for students by setting time for them to go through newspapers. This is just one way of making students independent and not relying on their teachers always.
Stanley Mukasa, educator
Newspapers can be read by students as leisure especially during weekends. They can help students come to the next class with examples and scenarios in the newspaper connected to a topic of discussion which improves the relevance of newspapers.
George Uwikindi, parent
Schools can work closely with parents to get involved in reading newspapers with their children at home, especially those who are in lower levels of school. This helps promote the reading culture.