Czechoslovakia as socialistic country (under the Soviet influence) used to provide international aid as a part of solidarity gesture to other socialistic countries until the year 1989. After the Velvet revolution Slovakia became the beneficiary of overseas assistance – country in a transition that needed a help in areas of teaching democracy, good governance, capacity building in non-profit sector, investigative journalism etc.
I remember the year 1990 when we started to learn English and all our Russian teachers had to twist to English teachers overnight. Obviously, there was a lack of good English-teachers, so many U.S. young adults came to (Czecho-)Slovakia as volunteers to teach us that important language. When we realized their knowledge about our history or culture – we were a bit disappointed or let’s say: angry. U.S. volunteers thought that there is no drinkable water or sanitation available in my country. So they filled their luggages with purification tablets, soaps, shampoos, toilet papers. Fortunately, these young North-Americans realized their mistake and corrected their image of Slovakia in a very first week of their stay. They were willing to face and destroy stereotypes about a life in less developed country. In year 2000 Slovakia (my “little big” country in the middle of Europe with 5,5 million habitants) became a real donor – sending financial, material aid (also know-how as a part of development cooperation projects) through the program Slovak Aid (Official development assistance of Slovak republic) to our priority / program countries, e.g. Kenya and (South) Sudan. Slovak citizens should be also willing (like U.S. volunteers 24 years ago) to destroy their prejudices, stereotypes about developing countries and think about the context, reasons, root-causes of global poverty.
Development can be seen as positive but also negative – depending on how development issues are covered and presented to the public – through media production. As a journalist and university teacher (focused on international development) with the development field experience from Kenya – I am trying to train journalism students, young bloggers and future development volunteers – how to link the media production and international development; how to properly cover development issues in Slovak media. To describe the achieved progress to Slovak public and to present the need or effectiveness of development aid (for example in East Africa) is not easy. Slovak field workers and also journalists usually use stereotypical images of beneficiaries (almost naked, malnourished African children – dying on the dusty slum-road) and blackmail the audience at home. They don’t think ethically. How to change that? I have an idea of media literacy toolkit and training for Slovak target groups. More info soon….
Written by: Bozena (Boba) Baluchova (Slovak community leader, journalist & teacher)