Kuni Tyessi in Abuja
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the American University of Nigeria (AUN) Yola, Adamawa State, which would open new opportunities in the university’s capacity development in the field of Social and Behaviour Change (SBC) and strengthen its Communication for Development (C4D) strategy.
The Chief of Field Operations, UNICEF Nigeria, Mr. Opiyo Nixon, said that the strategic collaboration with AUN was the first of its kind in Nigeria.
Nixon said that the essence of the MoU is to encourage interested students and teachers in Nigeria to uptake C4D/SBC as a pathway to drive positive change in their communities.
He said: “This partnership with a prestigious citadel of learning like the AUN will also ensure that we sustainably preserve the field of C4D/SBC in Nigeria. It will also enable the field to empirically evolve and respond to modern issues and challenges facing our societies.”
Nixon explained that the UNICEF would continue to partner with higher institutions in both public and private universities to promote innovative SBC and foster a clear vision for bridging the C4D/SBC human capacity gap in Nigeria.
He said that the UNICEF would always be delighted to collaborate with stakeholders, including Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), the academia and others to foster evidence-based initiatives that would transform societies for children to thrive.
Nixon said: “Communication for development is central to understanding how and the context in which people make behavioural decisions.
“It is key in facilitating social change for finding new solutions to the challenges — such as out of school children, violence against children or child marriage, stunting, poor uptake of services, and others — that UNICEF works to address,”
The chief of field operations in Nigeria said that that the UNICEF has worked with individuals, households, communities, and governments, to understand how people make decisions about their lives, the context in which decisions are made, and how to catalyse social change for over 20 years through C4D as a participatory tool.
He noted that there has been a paradigm shift recently within the United Nations’ (UN) system, including UNICEF, to expand C4D beyond communication, and put a stronger focus on SBC by grounding it more on science.
“The MoU we are signing with AUN today, aligns with this shift. By virtue of our work in C4D, UNICEF has curated more than two decades of legacy, experience, and programming leadership in the field, in a post-graduate course in Communication for Social Change (MCSC), which has been adopted by several universities across the world,” Nixon said.
The Interim President of AUN, Professor Attahir Yusuf, said that the collaboration between AUN and UNICEF would aim at developing mechanisms and a body of knowledge to deal with changes for the benefit of society.
Yusuf, therefore, commended UNICEF for partnering with AUN, which runs wide-ranging development programmes that has direct impact on local communities.