To every youth, access to information through various channels is paramount in their quest for academic excellence. As such, accessing social networks for useful information becomes everyone’s right.
However, the challenge comes in assessing how best the youth can and should use social networks for their academic excellence.
Through Ongea project, a project aimed at sensitising the understanding of basic human rights, such as right to information and ones’ responsibilities by empowering school teachers, students, youth artists and the public as a whole to be able to address the values of humanity and basic freedoms, more than five million students, including adolescents and older youth, plus 20 secondary schools from five districts in the city, are to be reached by the project before end of this year.
The target audiences are students, aged 15-24 years old, drawn from both private and public schools and young artists within Dar es Salaam.
The Ongea project also focuses on empowering young people and promoting active participation of students. Integration of human rights values and principles in schools, local communities have already started and so far several inter-school debates have been conducted.
Mulika Tanzania Chief Executive Officer Mr Hussein Melele, said the project sponsored by Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA) and implemented by Mulika is meant to promote human rights education, create awareness to the youth, especially secondary school students and to make them understand the meaning of human rights.
He also noted that youth will be taught on how to best use social media platforms for academic purposes.
According to the executive, so far the project has brought together students from Ilala, Kingamboni, Temeke, Kinondoni and Ubungo to participate in the inter-school debate on issues related to human rights and importance of social media.
Phillipo David, a student from Aboud Jumbe Secondary school, said students should be given extra time to access social networks in order for them to access learning materials and to know what’s going on around the globe.
“As students, we should make spare time to peruse through social network pages, particularly the ones which are meant to improve academic performance such as Shuledirect, Soma App and myelimu. Through these apps we can gain access to different learning materials,” he says.
He noted that social media has been useful to them; “we get a lot of information from online platforms, although, in reality, digital platforms are not only about social media, but the presence of social media has helped us to access several important learning materials.”
Martha Charles, 16, a form four student studying in Ilala, said accessing educational materials online has been helpful to her, especially during her free time than going to the library.
“Sometimes a student might go to the library but he/she might not find the textbook they want to read, however, on other occasions you might find the textbook in the library but find some pages missing,” she said. This further shows the importance of social media as an alternative source for academic materials.
“Using mobile or any other technology to access material is very convenient and has helped me perform better during exams,” Martha says.
Hussein noted that accessing social network is everyone’s right. In todays’ society youth have a right to seek various information on social network, however, the most important point is how to best utilize the accessed information provided to them online.
“We are mostly focusing on school-going children to help them highlight great essentials that can be learned through social media and help them grab the opportunities found in social networks to improve their academic performance due to the rapid growth of digital system,” he said.
According to him, in the country youth are more attached to digital systems with a noticeable preference to social networks such as Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.
Policy Forum, program assistance advocacy and engagement head Mr Imani Khatibu, advised students to make proper useof social networks for the benefit of their studies.
“Every citizen has a right to seek for information. The major point however, is how to use that information provided for academic purposes. Students can use some Apps such as Soma App, Elimika weekend, to strengthening their academic performance,” he says.
Imani further states that access to safe internet helps students learn better, gain self-confidence and are able to retain what they search for much longer than what they gain through traditional learning. “Though if misused could be harmful, the internet is a good learning tool when used well,” he points.
He further noted that science and technology play a vital role in today’s lives and in several fields such as health, transport, education, business, finance, entrepreneurship, production and manufacturing, therefore if students embrace innovation well; it gives them room to perform better in class and access learning materials without inconvenience.
A social media survey conducted in 2014 and 2015 shows that 71 per cent of youth use more than one social media platform, with most of them being attached to interactive social networks.
Education being a fundamental right, promoting individual freedom and empowerment while also yielding important development benefits proves that there’s a need to diversify how students learn.
Reports show that Tanzania has taken big strides in making sure every person acquires education by increasing the number of schools. For example, in 2001 there were 937 schools, in 2010 the number stood at 4266 schools.
Although access to education has been made easy, with use of social media being one of the improved and modern ways of acquiring technology, the standard of students’ academic prowess remains a big challenge. Better use of social media can be a possible solution to upgrading the quality of learning.
According to the National Examinations Council of Tanzania (Necta), statistics show that about 67.53 per cent students passed in 2015 compared to 68.33 per cent in 2014.
This indicates that the level of passing has decreased by 1.85 per cent. In 2015 about 2.77 per cent students scored division I, 9.01 per cent scored division II, 13.16 percent scored division III, 67.91 per cent score IV and the rest scored 0.