Abiodun Jamiu never imagined he could ever be taught journalism in Pidgin English and other Nigerian languages. That changed on November 14 last year when he viewed a friend’s WhatsApp status promoting a free webinar focused on training Nigerian journalists in solutions journalism in Pidgin English and Nigerian indigenous languages like Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba.
“I was fascinated by the fact that there was going to be a webinar in Pidgin English. All the [webinars] I have been attending are communicated in English. The fact that this was coming in local languages tickled my interest. So I signified interest.”
British English is Nigeria’s official language. But most people in rural Nigeria speak pidgin English and their indigenous languages due to limited access to British English-learning platforms, including formal education.
Journalistic content in Nigeria is mostly presented in the official language, making it difficult for some in urban and most in rural settlements who do not speak nor understand British English to digest issues.
The webinar is a solutions journalism project launched by Seun Durojaiye, the founder of Social Voices, a local solutions-focused media outlet training and building the capacity of Nigerian journalists to produce solutions stories in Pidgin English and indigenous languages.
Durojaiye carried out the project as a Solutions Journalism Network or SJN Africa fellow. In July 2021, she was selected as an inaugural fellow alongside nine others from Nigeria and Kenya after SJN approved her proposed project to train journalists in local languages. With funding support and mentorship from SJN, Durojaiye commenced the project in November 2021.
Before she called for applications from journalists interested in producing solutions stories in indigenous languages, Durojaiye first created the curriculum and training deck used as a mode of instruction to teach solutions journalism in indigenous languages and Pidgin English.
Durojaiye said the inability of people in far-flung communities to access media content due mainly to language barrier motivated her to start the project. By training journalists to report solutions stories in indigenous languages and Pidgin English, Durojaiye wants to “access these audiences which are by default marginalized from quality news content and information because of language barriers.”
And “one of the most important things about the project is representation,” she said. “When a large percentage of the population is exempted from engaging in important news or information because of language barriers, then it can easily be concluded that they are not being adequately represented.”
Thus far, Durojaiye has trained over 100 Nigerian journalists in solutions journalism in indigenous languages and Pidgin English. After the training, Durojaiye created WhatsApp and Google groups to help guide and monitor the progress of each journalist. And through Social Voices, she commissions and supports journalists to produce solutions stories.
Jamiu said the training has helped him produce two solutions stories added to SJN’s Story Tracker, a database of solutions journalism. He said the training he attended via the Zoom platform between November 18 and 27 also changed his perception of the dominant narrative about Africa.
“The training changed my perception about storytelling in Africa,” he said. “Another thing is that it teaches me that it is not all gloom and doom in Africa, [but that] there are initiatives that are providing solutions to societal problems, and these solutions are working.”
However, Durojaiye said the lack of adequate funding to provide resources for journalists who want to carry out projects after the training is a major challenge.
Nonetheless, she hopes to get funding [through grants] to support her trained journalists to produce more solutions-focused stories and “empower people in marginalized communities to tell their own stories using the solutions journalism approach.”
For Jamiu, he is happy to produce more solutions stories. “We cannot continue to focus on problems,” he said