Fakhira Najib

Fakhira Najib is CEO of the radio station FM Power99 and the inventor of Broadclass, an interactive English learning show for young children.)

Why is good children’s media important, especially in Pakistan ?

Informative and educative children’s media is important everywhere in the world. For children in Pakistan this is even more important as around 2.5 Million children at the primary age cannot attend a school. And the main reason for that is the access. I think that media can be a good source to have some kind of information and education for those children who cannot attend school.

Why do you think radio can be a very good medium to address children ?

We are all living in the age of technology. And every technology has it’s own positive sides and importance. In Pakistan radio is a very important source of information because in most of the areas there is no other media or other technology accessible.
Especially for people in remote areas radio can provide entertainment and information. It’s affordable for them. And seeing it from the production side it’s a much more cost effective than television.

What about the acceptance especially in remote areas ?

I think acceptance of radio is way higher. Because it has been used for so many years. In every household they had a radio before they bought a TV. They are used to listen sports or music or talks through radio. Another advantage is that it has no pictures. That avoids a lot of cultural problems. It is all about imagination and good sound.
What also strengthens the acceptance of radio in remote areas is that there are social and cultural barriers which radio can overcome, as radio is a very community oriented medium.

So this is also a cultural thing ?

Yes. In remote areas every community has its own radio. In comparison with television, radio is much more cost effective. It can be produced with less staff and directly in the region for the region. So radio has the advantage that it can talk to people in there own language, about their specific problems and take in consideration their local and cultural context.
It is also very interactive. Just one telephone call away from a local person. We always say that the single radio station is defined by the community itself. Because whenever a radio person is doing something in the next very few minute he can just receive a call and get the direct feedback about his programs. So it is a very community oriented medium.

Could you imagine that one day every community in every area has it’s own children’s program ?

Yes, why not. We have to think in those lines. Especially because we don’t have specific programs for children at this very moment. Especially for small children from three onward there is almost nothing. Right now the focus in media, radio such as print or television, is on political ratings and all those things. But we don’t offer any information or entertainment for the children. So I think there is a need. Once we started our program (Broadclass) we really felt that there is a need. And people want their children to listen to some good quality program.

If i would say “the children should rather go to school and get their basic education there”. What would you reply ?

There are two ways of education. One is formal and the other one is informal. In school the children are doing their curricular activities but co-curricular activities are also important. Whatever the children are reading or writing or learning at school if that is related to their daily life it can be long lasting. So along with school there must be some other sources of information for the children to strengthen that education.

What makes you think that you can learn things from the radio ?

It is not about radio or the medium with which you provide information for children. It’s about how you present information to children. That decides how and what they will learn. Teaching has to be very interactive, the teaching person has to be very friendly and learning has to be funny for the child.
If your content is designed and developed in a very interactive style with some music or games and especially if it has some fun elements in it then children will learn.

What makes radio a good medium for children ?

It is very important for children at this age to use their own imagination. That strengthens their creativity and critical thinking.

You are talking a lot about imagination, about fun parts, about creativity. But you’re main goal is to educate. Why is it important to have funny elements in a show for children ?

Because children like fun. If they are learning through fun then you know they will enjoy it, they will show interest. And if there is interest, if learning is interesting for the children then we can keep them in school. In Pakistan the drop out rate is very high. If it is just boring in school and if there is no fun then they will not stay.

What is the difference between producing for children and producing for adults ?

As children and adults have totally different interest and needs you always have to consider very precisely for which target group you are producing. For children it has to be very interactive. Also very important is the music. Children like music but as a producer you have to be careful. The music should be child friendly. And if possible you should try to add some fun parts.

What are the most important things to consider if producing educational programs for children? For example if someone in a far province wants to start a program in his language.

First of all they have to consider the local curriculum and what standards are set for those areas for the children. Also the local and cultural context is very important. If the program and its content is close to the local culture the acceptability will be high. Then the children can identify with the show and its host.

What are the chances for broadcasters who also want to produce content for children not only for adults ?

And it is especially for our society very important to work on that. It is needed and it is the missing part of all media.
In Islamabad there are 50.000 children listening our program. 50.000 children means 50.000 households. If one’s child is listening to a program it will be interesting for the parents as well. Teachers are involved. Their families are involved. Etc. When you are working with children indirectly you are reaching a lot more people.

You have worked as a teacher and therefore you have an educational background but what about broadcasters that don’t have a background like you do ?

Although we do have this background we try to get people involved who are already working on the children education. We are a group of people. Our program is not produced in isolation. We involve teachers. We involve educators. We involve government representation. And some experts who are working on the curriculum. Or some freelance writers for the poems or stories. We as the braodcaster only facilitate them on this. We know our tool, the radio. We know the production processes. We are not experts on education. So we involve those people.

So it is all about having a good network ?

Yes. We are broadcasters but we cannot do everything, know everything. There must be some kind of consortium who is working on children. Then we could take benefit of each other e.g. resources or other strengths. Otherwise we can’t sustain. Otherwise it will be just on sponsors and donors.
I think in Pakistan most of the organizations have capacities in the on or the other field. If we manage to work together we could share resources and expertise. If we join we can do lot of things.

Thank you very much for the interview!

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