Educating School Teachers in Remote Districts of Pamir Region and University Teachers of Khorog Town on Media Literacy

by Zohir Shomusalamov

Bordering Afghanistan, China, and Kyrgyzstan, the Pamir region, the most remote region of Tajikistan, is in a state of informational chaos. A combination of increased internet access, international television channels, and the political influence of the neighboring countries in Pamir resulted in a large influx of media from various sources pushing multiple agendas. Despite the potential positive elements of an increase in access to information, the community in Pamir, including influential members such as teachers, lack understanding of media literacy and the tools needed to critically analyze new information. Many of the community members are highly susceptible to disinformation, especially school children.

Participants from the Shugnan district take part in a discussion on how to identify if news is fake or real.

After virtually attending the Alumni Thematic International Exchange Seminar (Alumni TIES) Global seminar on “Shaping the Global Narrative on Media Literacy” in October 2020, I was awarded an Alumni TIES small grant from the U.S. Department of State to enact change and directly address the lack of media literacy education in the Pamir region. Through this grant, the public organization (PO), Ruzbeh and I created a community-based initiative, “Educating School Teachers in Remote Districts of Pamir Region and University Teachers of Khorog Town on Media Literacy.” The project focuses on educating teachers (for the grades of 8–11) in the remote areas within the Pamir region, specifically from the districts of Ishkashim, Murghab, Shugnan, Rushan, and Darvaz and university teachers from Khorog University in media literacy and equipping them with the necessary skills to critically dissect and determine if a news source is accurately portraying new information. The mission of this project is to improve the knowledge of these educators in these crucial areas and indirectly improve the knowledge of their students and other youth in their community.

An expert trainer educates participants from the Darvaz district on how to share their new knowledge on media literacy and disinformation with their students.

During the first half of the project, our team conducted eight trainings in Ishkashim, Rushan, Shugnan, and Khorog. In total, 192 teachers (28 male and 164 female) participated in the media literacy trainings and workshops, learning about critical thinking, fact-checking, information analysis. During the trainings, teachers shared stories about their experience on the dissemination of disinformation by community members and the problems that resulted from that disinformation in their respective communities. Due to the success of the trainings and workshops, five additional training sessions were requested by the local government. These trainings focused on educating 466 security personnel and social volunteers between the ages of 20 to 60 years old.

Participants from the Shugnan district learn how to present media literacy to the children in their schools.

Despite the current public health crisis in the world, the project itself has faced very few challenges in its execution, to date. The strong support from the government is the largest success and truly cemented the importance of the work that we are trying to introduce to the most remote parts of Tajikistan. Their insistence on broadening the target beneficiaries and conducting more trainings within the region gives us hope for continued expansion of the project throughout Tajikistan.

The Alumni TIES small grant enabled us to bring media literacy education to one of the most remote, mountainous regions of Tajikistan. Through this project, we increased the critical thinking and fact-checking skills of our fellow community members in the Pamir region. We are certain that as we continue with the second half of our project, these trainings and workshops will produce significant positive change, not only in the minds of our beneficiaries but also in the surrounding regions.

Educating School Teachers in Remote Districts of Pamir Region and University Teachers of Khorog Town on Media Literacy is funded through an Alumni TIES small grant from the U.S. Department of State.

Alumni Thematic International Exchange Seminars (Alumni TIES) are regionally focused seminars for alumni of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs.