On the morning of Wednesday March 20, the launch of Tostan’s new Reinforcement of Parental Practices Module took place in Dakar, Senegal, where Tostan’s headquarters are based.

The event brought together representatives from the Senegalese government and our key partner UNICEF, as well as local and international press, donors, and community members from the villages of Nguerigne Bambara, Saam Njaay, and Medina Gounas. These three communities already participated in the module’s pilot phase in 2012.

The new module, financed by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, supports Tostan’s mission to help communities achieve positive social change through human rights-based nonformal education.  The module will be an addition to Tostan’s core program, the three-year Community Empowerment Program (CEP).

According to Project Coordinator Ibrahima Giroux speaking at the launch: “The Reinforcement of Parental Practices Module will seek to integrate new research with traditional parenting practices to improve the overall quality of parent-child interaction and child development.”

Recent discoveries about brain development in young children have shown the importance of stimulating interactions between parents and their children. These discoveries outline how certain types of interactions, such as talking directly to children, telling them stories, and copying their motions, stimulate neurological development in the brain, giving the children an excellent start in their social, linguistic, and emotional growth. This in turn leads to more children staying in and performing better in school.

During the Reinforcement Parental Practices Module, facilitators share with community members simple techniques that enrich interactions between parents and their young children and are all linked to children’s basic human rights to education and health.

Through 48 class sessions in the local language and visits to participant’s homes, the facilitator encourages community members to speak to their young children using a rich and complex vocabulary, asking their children questions and helping them respond, playfully copying their children, telling them stories, and describing objects in detail to them.

Abdoul Aziz Ndiaye, Director of the Department of Early Childhood within the Ministry of Women, Children, and Female Entrepreneurship, closed the launch of the module, reaffirming the Government of Senegal’s support for the new module: “This program is directly in line with the strategy [for young children] currently implemented by the Government of Senegal.”

The module will now be expanded to 200 villages and class sessions will soon begin in the Wolof, Fulani, and Mandinka languages. The team is expected to work with over 4,000 families and, throughorganized diffusion , reach a total of 45,000 people indirectly.

The module will also work closely with school systems in partner communities through the inclusion of 690 teachers and school directors in project activities and the creation of 232 community School Management Committees.