Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP) uses cell phones to teach literacy and to educate program participants on how to use cell phones as tools for income-generating activities, social mobilization, and social networking.
On 5-10 July 2012, Tostan held a week-long training on cell phone usage in Bafata, Guinea-Bissau and another in Basse, The Gambia on 8-13 August. During the two seminars, trainers Amadou Mamadou Diallo and Malick Niang instructed Tostan supervisors and facilitators on how to teach the class sessions on cell phones in the CEP. Locial authorities of Guinea-Bissau and The Gambia also attended the respective trainings.
Facilitators teach classes in each community where Tostan implements its program, and supervisors are responsible for overseeing several CEP centers in a region. After the trainings in July and August, the facilitators and supervisors present were able to return to their respective regions and train supervisors and facilitators who were not at the seminar.
The first three days of each seminar covered the basic elements of a cell phone, such as the concept of icons and the menu. During the CEP, Tostan uses the metaphor of a mango tree to conceptualize how one navigates a cell phone. The trunk of the tree represents the main menu, and each icon corresponds to a separate branch of the tree with a branch for contacts, a branch for messages, a branch for tools, etc.
Days four and five covered how to write on a cell phone and send and receive text messages. In these two days, the trainers also taught participants how to use the tools of the calendar, watch, and calculator.
During the final day, trainers Amadou and Malick informed the supervisors and facilitators on how cell phones can reinforce community-led development through social mobilization and social networking. The CEP contains class sessions on how to use cell phones to promote the health and cleanliness of the community. Sessions are also devoted to using cell phones as tools for income-generating activities.
For example, community members can use their cell phones to call a health care professional in case of an emergency or to text the health clinic to see if the doctor is available before travelling all the way to the clinic. CEP participants also use text messaging to raise-awareness about community campaigns, such as village clean-up days and vaccination campaigns.
Shortly after the initial trainings, supervisors and facilitators conducted additional trainings for other facilitators in their regions. Another seminar in Guinea is scheduled for September.
According to the National Coordinator of Tostan in Guinea-Bissau, Alassane Diedhiou, the training was a great success. He has received numerous calls and text messages from facilitators and participants thanking Tostan for the training.
Tostan partnered with UNICEF in 2009 to add the mobile phones for literacy project, entitled the ‘Jokko Initiative,’ as a supplement to Tostan’s core program. Jokko means ‘communication’ in the Senegalese language of Wolof. The Jokko Initiative has since been incorporated into the CEP.