THIES, Senegal 19 March 2010:

30 Tostan facilitators traveled from regions across Senegal in order to attend a four-day Jokko Initiative Training seminar, which began on Tuesday, March 16th in the city of Thiès. The fruit of an innovative partnership between Tostan and UNICEF, the Jokko Intiative uses mobile phones as pedagogical tools to support the Aawde component (literacy, introduction to management, and post-literacy) of Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP). The goal of the Jokko Initiative is to empower people to harness the power of accessible mobile technology to improve their lives and those of their children. Mobile phones serve as practical tools for learning and reinforcing literacy and numeracy skills, while offering various applications that are relevant to the daily lives of community members and which allow them to practice the organization and management skills taught in the CEP. Tostan has also seen that SMS texting- a more economical means of communication than a phone call – has the potential to accelerate positive social change, as it provides a platform for exchanging information, broadcasting ideas and organizing community advocacy efforts.

During the training seminar, conducted in Wolof and Pular, the facilitators performed skits, sang, danced, and used illustrations to ready themselves for teaching courses on sending and receiving SMS text messages, registering contacts, and using the calculator function on cell phones, etc.

One of the participatory teaching tools to be used by facilitators to teach CEP participants is an illustration of a mango tree, with each branch representing a different level in the menu of a cell phone. The illustration helps those who are new to the technology to navigate menus and reach their desired application. Facilitators practiced making their way along the branches of a model tree and narrated their journey.
Guillaume Debar, the Jokko Initiative project manager, expressed optimism about the project’s future. “Our pilot in 200 villages in Senegal has showed that project participants see an immediate incentive to learn to read and write, as they use SMS texting to communicate better and at a lower cost. As a result, they are consistently motivated throughout the course of the Aawde, and other community members even applied to join the class.”

By Rebecca Tapscott

To read more about the Jokko Initiative, please click here. Click here to view additional photos and video clips.