Enhancing Youth Engagement during the Pandemic through Creative and Responsible Media Expressions
Sri Lanka Development Journalist Forum (SDJF), in partnership with HELVETAS Intercooperation gGmbH, organised an online competition on ‘I Am a Responsible Media Citizen’ for the Media and Communication students of the Universities of Peradeniya, Sri Jayewardenepura, Jaffna and the South Eastern University from 18 November 2020 to 20 February 2021. The competition was held in view of encouraging youth to engage and express themselves creatively, innovatively and in a socially responsible manner during the pandemic.
The competition was held on three consecutive days for each University, in English, Sinhala and Tamil. The students were given the opportunity to express their creative ideas through cartoons, memes, videos, photos and captions on the thematic areas such as (i) Gender equality (ii) Digital Citizenship (iii) Right to Information (iv) Fake news (v) Freedom of expression & (vi) Responsible use of social media.
The participants displayed great interest and zeal during this phase. Thamodi Liyanage, from the University of Peradeniya was highly thrilled about this opportunity. She stated, “This is really exciting for us. We haven’t participated in an online competition like this before.”
Creative work of the students submitted during the competition
A total of 339 students were registered for the individual and group competitions, which resulted in 60 entries for the individual competition and 195 for the group competition. A panel of judges selected the winners in each competition category, from the respective universities. The experience the students gained through this entire endeavour surely added immense value to their knowledge and life. Vocalising his experience, Eshana Sandun, from the University of Jayewardenepura stated, “The 3-day competition made me reflect, if I am a responsible media citizen. I was able to navigate through different thematic areas of this project.”
The competition was concluded with an award ceremony and project orientation for each University conducted online. For the award ceremony and project orientation conducted separately (for each university), Dr. Gamini Pushpakumara, Dean of the faculty of Agriculture, from the University of Peradeniya; Dr. Senani Harischandra, Senior Lecturer, Department of Sinhala and Mass Communication, of University of Sri Jayewardenepura; Dr. S. Raguram, Head of Media Studies, University of Jaffna, Dean of the faculty of Arts and Culture, Prof. A. Rameez, South Eastern University and other senior lecturers of each University graced the occasions. In addition, Prof. Padmasiri Wanigasundera, Chairperson of SDJF, Subhashi Dissanayake, Country Representative (HELVETAS), Mohamed Azad, Programme Director (SDJF), Chandula Kumbukage, Project Manager (HELVETAS), Ganeshanathan Saahithiyanan, Project Officer (HELVETAS), Christine Weerakoon, Project Coordinator (SDJF), Marlene Perera, Communications Officer (SDJF), Rifdi Nawas, Accounts Officer (SDJF) took part in the events.
Appreciating and acknowledging the initiative of the InSPIRE Project, Dr. S. Raguram expressed his thoughts. “It is really impressive to have such a programme organised, especially during a situation like Covid-19, to keep the students engaged, as it has been a stress reliever to many of them.”
As part of this programme, students were provided clear insights on the purpose of the competition and project activities that are to be implemented in their respective Universities in the near future. “I hope this InSPIRE project will facilitate more programmes of this nature, to engage the university youth so that they can add value to their undergraduate profiles in a variety of dimensions” added Dr. G. Pushpakumara.
At the end of each programme, the winners were announced and awarded with exciting prizes. Undoubtedly, this was a triumphant encounter to all the participants, regardless of them being adjudged winners.
The activity is implemented as a part of Incubator Spaces for Promoting Information Rights and Freedom of Expression (InSPIRE) project implemented by Helvetas Intercooperation gGmbH in partnership Sri Lanka Development Journalist Forum (SDJF) and funded by the European Union.