Today, June 16, marks the Day of the African Child, initiated by the African Union to commemorate the 1976 protests by school children in Soweto for a fair education system. This year’s theme is: “A child-friendly, quality, free and compulsory education for all children in Africa.”  It is an opportune moment to highlight the progress and remaining existing challenges to realizing full rights of children living in the countries where Tostan works. Tostan prioritizes education through the Reinforcement of Parental Practices (RPP) module, which helps parents in rural Senegal better communicate with their young children to prepare them to perform better and stay in school. The Peace and Security Project and the Prison Project also contribute to giving African youth access to education in a violence-free environment.

Reinforcement of Parental Practices (RPP) module

The RPP promotes positive parent-child interactions by organizing events called “March of the Kangaroos” and by training expert primary caregivers. After a successful pilot program in 2012 and its launch in March 2013, over 600 caregivers have received training. They learned about the different kinds of human intelligences (emotional, social, psychomotor, linguistic, and logical-mathematical), as well as the various signals that enable a child to receive sounds and capture the information they need to behave. School Management Committees have also been established in partner communities to protect children’s rights and promote a sense of ownership of the school system at the community level.

To maximize the program’s impact and ensure its sustainability, the RPP team has partnered with religious leaders and gained their support through seminars.  The seminars highlight the similarities between the RPP’s nonviolent education methods and the way the Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) educated his children.  For example, Imam Babacar Diop and his experience with the RPP show the impact of the program.

Peace and Security

This initiative works to strengthen and support Tostan’s proven grassroots strategy of community-led development to improve peace and security in the West African region. It focuses on building ways to overcome barriers that limit an individual’s ability to develop through collaboration at the local, regional, and national level. By ensuring every woman, man, and child can develop in a safe and cooperative environment, there will be improvements in education and in other areas of human development.

Galadio Dieng is the headmaster of the elementary school in the community of Walaldé, in the Podor department of northern Senegal. He says: “The local Community Management Committee supports students by providing schools supplies and even paying for their annual registration fees. The local Peace Committee is also very active in the resolution of conflicts in school, especially between parents and teachers.”

The Prison Project

The Prison Project launched in 2003 when the Senegalese prison administration allowed Tostan to implement an adaptation of its program within the prison system. They heard about the positive results of the Community Empowerment Program (CEP) with regards to community development, increased respect for human rights, the empowerment of women and girls, improved child protection, and reduced violence against women. The goal of the Prison Project is to restore the dignity of detainees by providing them the tools to improve conditions within the Senegalese prison system and by empowering them to reintegrate back into society upon their release.  Tostan delivers a modified version of the CEP in the prisons, providing nonformal human rights-based education, practical skills, and family mediation mainly to women and children detainees who constitute the most vulnerable groups.

 Without relevant skills and knowledge, a former detainee’s experience reintegrating back into society can be challenging and discouraging. In addition to human rights-based education, Tostan provides training in shoemaking, fabric dyeing, and poultry farming to better prepare detainees to make a living once they are released. Former inmates are also given a support fund to start their own microbusiness. For example, Modou (name changed) started his own poultry farming business, raising chicks for 45 days at least and selling them for profit afterwards.

Looking forward

Although there are still many challenges to overcome, Tostan and its partners remain committed to ensuring all children are able to access education and reach their full potential. Through its holistic education program, as well as additional projects like the RPP, Peace and Security Project, and Prison Project, Tostan is able to make these steps forward.