How ICIR-led fact-checking clubs in Nigerian universities are taking media literacy campaigns to grassroots

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In an era where misinformation spreads like wildfire, the Countering Misinformation and Promoting Media Literacy (CMPML) project of the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) has empowered students in Nigerian universities to take media literacy campaigns to the grassroots.

The innovative fact-checking initiative, launched in 2023 and supported by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Abuja, targeted twelve Nigerian tertiary institutions.

It will be recalled that the students were earlier empowered with fact-checking skills via in-persons training to critically evaluate information and combat false narratives, thus fostering a more informed and discerning generation of thinkers among Nigerians.

AUDIO PODCAST: Impact of ICIR‘s Countering Misinformation and Promoting Media Literacy project

"No gree for fake news" - a member of the Fact-Check Club holding a signpost at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto (UDUS).
“No gree for fake news” – a member of the Fact-Check Club holding a signpost at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto (UDUS).

This led to the launch of fact-checking clubs in at least two of schools so far – the Federal University, Lokoja in Kogi State and Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto (UDUS).

The fact-check club in UDUS focused their sensitization programme and campus media literacy campaign on the significance of fact-checking, with intriguing titles like “No gree for fake news; if it’s fake, it’s not news; verify before sharing; put an end to misinformation,” among others.

Meanwhile, their Federal University of Lokoja counterpart focused their one-day programme on verifying the authenticity of information.

Some members of the Fact-Check Club in Federal University Lokoja holding their sign posts during the grassroot campaign.
Some members of the Fact-Check Club in Federal University Lokoja holding their sign posts during the grassroot campaign.

The ICIR’s fact-checking initiative is a crucial step towards combating misinformation and promoting media literacy among Nigerian students.

Speaking with The FactCheckHub, the coordinators of the clubs in both universities charged other schools in The ICIR countering misinformation project and other nigerian universities at large to inaugurate their fact-checking club. They also urged fellow students to imbibe the practice of fact-checking in their daily living.

Miss Samuel Shade, the fact-check club coordinator and a 300 level Mass Communication student at the Federal University of Lokoja said that in response to the campaign, more students wants to be part of the fact-check club in the university. She noted that it has made fellow students in her department and the school community aware of the need for verification of information.

“We organized a campaign and there was a massive turnout. The club has brought the consciousness of information verification to the students of Mass Communication and the campus community,” Samuel said.

Some members of the Fact-check club in Federal University Lokoja, engaging and sensitizing their peers on campus during the programme.
Some members of the Fact-check club in Federal University Lokoja, engaging and sensitizing their peers on campus during the programme.

Also speaking, Abdulrasheed Akere, a 400 level student of the department of Science and Vocational Education and the coordinator of the fact-check club in Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto (UDUS) said the prevalence of misinformation have reduced on campus as most students now reach out to the club before reposting or sharing any information seen on social media.

Cross-section of participants at the Fact-check club sensitization in UDUS
Cross-section of participants at the Fact-check club sensitization organised in UDUS recently.

“The rampancy of false claims has reduced on our campus because students used to call us at the rumor level before they put it on their status or Facebook handle and we will verify it for them,” he said.

“We have network with the management which makes the task easy for us. Students often call me to verify news even if it is about their department. We created a campus where misinformation purveyors now fear to operate because we will debunk their claims with just a phone call to the authority,” Akere noted

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He added that the main challenge they are burdened with is hearing the side of the person that shares false information, noting that some of them would not respond to messages sent to them seeking clarification on why they spread misinformation.

Akere, however, stated that his team usually reach out individuals and authorities concern to debunk such information or verify its accuracy and by also using digital tools learnt during the ICIR-led fact-checking training held in the university last year.

They both noted that the success of the CMPML project is a testament to the power of collaborative efforts in promoting fact-based communication and combating the spread of misinformation.

Fact-checker at The FactheckHub | [email protected] | + posts

Seasoned fact-checker and researcher Fatimah Quadri has written numerous fact-checks, explainers, and media literacy pieces for The FactCheckHub in an effort to combat information disorder. She can be reached at sunmibola_q on X or [email protected].

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