by David A. Nuttle
3 January 2008
Over the last few decades, radio schools have been used to provide distance-learning materials to children living in remote locations such as isolated ranches in Australia. In yet another application, a radio school was used in Peru (via Radio Puno) to provide an array of distance-learning materials for youth and adults. During the mid-1960s, Radio Puno broadcast primarily to Quechua indigenous (tribal) populations then being recruited to support a growing communist insurgency against the Government of Peru (GOP).
Radio Puno recruited, trained, and organized radio school managers for each of the Quechua villages in its broadcast area. These managers would then organize classes by subject, and recruit students for each village’s class. Crystal radios were provided for all the organized classes, and these radios could only receive Radio Puno. There were many radio class options to include reading, writing, math, Spanish language, health, sanitation, potable water, food security, safety, cottage industry/ microenterprise development, local marketing opportunities, and participation rules for government programs. Traditional music and area news items were broadcast 10 minutes of each hour. A very subtle anti- insurgency message was also delivered in the context of local news and village security suggestions. As a result of the Radio Puno effort, the insurgents failed to gain needed support from Quechua villages, in Peru. (As I recall, Radio Puno was operated jointly by the Maryknoll Fathers and Government of Peru.)
Today, radio schools are needed to provide distance-learning of development and/or redevelopment skills in areas where security problems effectively prevent direct teaching of these skills. Moreover, the radio schools allow instruction to be given to many villagers at one time using the best instructors (for each subject) --- and the best foreign language translators. Areas of critical need, for radio schools, include Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, and similar areas with high security risks for development personnel. Without such an effort, the local populations will see no real rewards for their suffering from the harm inflicted by terrorists and insurgents. If the local populations have no benefits from supporting counterterrorist or counterinsurgency efforts, such efforts will seldom receive the type of popular support needed to defeat terrorists/ insurgents.
In theory, the U.S. Agency for Intl. Development (USAID) should take responsibility for the development of radio schools, in areas such as Iraq, where the U.S. seeks to soon defeat terrorist/ insurgent forces. However, USAID has long ignored the need for urgent development/ redevelopment efforts to help motivate local populations to support any or all of our counterterrorist/ counterinsurgency efforts. In view of the USAID failure, U.S. Army Combat Engineer (USACE) units are now assuming responsibility for development and redevelopment efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. I witnessed very similar events in Vietnam (during my service there, 1959-62), when USAID refused to provide effective support for development and redevelopment efforts. In the case of Vietnam, the military and private contractors had to perform these tasks after USAID failed. (The reasons for USAID’s failures are beyond the scope of this presentation.)
From my own experience, I know that radio schools help to reduce levels of conflict by giving local populations the incentives needed to deny support for terrorist/ insurgent groups they are targeted by. The informal radio network I established, in Vietnam, was used to provide security instructions for 60 Montagnard (tribal) villages under attack by communist Viet Cong forces (1961-62). This radio network also supported development and redevelopment efforts giving the Montagnard villagers the incentives needed to fully resist and defeat the Viet Cong. Subject work was a part of the very successful CIDG (Civilian Irregular Defense Group) Program I helped to direct. (The CIDG Program was later discontinued, for political reasons, despite the great success.) This unique CIDG experience, with radio networks, started my research into radio school/ distance-learning concepts and practices, as I have outlined herein.
By late 2007, the House Armed Services Committee (of the U.S. Congress) started an investigation of the USAID failure to effectively undertake development/ redevelopment efforts in Iraq. At the same time, another committee in the U.S. State Department began to explore the need to totally reorganize USAID due to such obvious failures in Iraq, and elsewhere. The fact of the matter is that many American and Iraqi lives were lost due to USAID’s prolonged failure to create the kind of development/ redevelopment work that could have better-motivated Iraqi people to support counterterrorist/ counterinsurgency efforts to end the violence. I hope that such committee efforts will finally explore and document what has been nearly five decades of sustained failures by USAID.
In prior years, persons engaged in development/ redevelopment or charitable works were generally immune from attack by terrorists or insurgents. Today, those who do such good works are also considered targets, or targets of opportunity. Many volunteers for NGOs/ charities, as well as some USAID or Peace Corps personnel, are being kidnapped or killed in assorted locations having high levels of conflict; e.g. Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, etc. The net result is that it will be far more difficult to recruit and long sustain personnel with skills needed to undertake effective development/ redevelopment efforts. Moreover, there will be a serious replacement problem when many of these personnel are kidnapped or killed. It therefore seems obvious that radio schools, and the distance-learning options they offer, should be given serious consideration.
Since many of our leaders are unfamiliar with radio schools, they fail to realize that this is a viable option in meeting development/ redevelopment needs in hazardous areas. Radio broadcast facilities may be mobile, or located in a safe area, so the argument that they are too vulnerable is not valid. The argument that radio schools are too costly has no merit, since hourly and per pupil costs of instruction are far less with distance-learning via radio broadcasts. Distance-learning can be accomplished with far fewer instructors, and foreign language translators, when compared with classroom or other types of direct instruction. As I noted above, radio schools allow you to have your best instructors, and your best foreign language translators, working with many more students while being in a secure location. It would seem that radio schools must now be given more serious and deliberate consideration as a viable option to help facilitate conflict resolution. (NPI, the charity I direct, is already preparing the programming for such radio schools.)