Archive for the ‘Senegal’ Category

I spent a few days in Nairobi early last week with our education and our ICT staff from Ghana, Uganda, Senegal, Mozambique, Kenya, Egypt and a few other folks, including the brilliant Mika Valitalo from our Finnish office and people from regional and headquarters levels. We were looking at goals and challenges in our education programs and thinking about where ICTs might play a role.

The process was really interesting. Starting a few months back, each country shared their education context analysis onto a wiki. In a second round they narrowed down to a specific area in education, looked at the information and communication flow and gaps, and identified areas where there might be an ICT solution. They focused mostly on mobiles, but in many cases mobiles were supported by computers, servers and laptops as well as non-digital information and communication tools and also solar technologies. Each country team met by Skype with Mika and an external consultant to discuss the concepts and get ICT advice and support. Then they updated their concepts and got additional feedback. For the third round, they added rich pictures to show what the specific ICT solutions might look like. Everyone had an opportunity to give input into everyone else’s ideas via the wiki.

At the meeting in Nairobi, we spent a day sharing the concepts with each other for clarification and focused input. Colleagues shared the broader education context in their countries and specifically in the communities where they are working. Then they illustrated the specific education issues and the ICT solutions that they were suggesting and/or the places they felt ICTs could help. Some of the ICT solutions focused on a very specific technology or device. Others showed how different types of ICTs could be integrated at different points in the process. Others required development of a totally new ‘solution’.

Some of the areas where colleagues thought ICTs could support education included: teacher training for those working in remote communities, adult literacy (especially literacy retention post literacy training), improving exam scores, livening up and improving in-class curriculum, and transparency and accountability in education. We spent 2 days then working in different small groups on the concepts, cross-pollinating ideas and deciding which of the concepts were most relevant to all 6 countries (in order to make it more possible to scale them) and which were most feasible and do-able.

The ideas were all a good fit with our global education strategy (see page 9) which focuses on service delivery (in partnership with local governments and communities); organizing and empowering rights holders; and grassroots participatory advocacy to influence education policies, financing and practice. The strategy prioritizes actions around equal access to education, quality of education, and education governance (see page 10).

Accountability and transparency in education

One of the concepts that captured the most interest from the whole group was that of using ICTs to improve accountability and transparency in education. Education is one of the areas where “Quiet Corruption” is often found. ‘Quiet corruption, which can take the form of absenteeism among teachers or doctors, the distribution of fake drugs, or the sale of diluted fertilizers to poor farmers, is having a damaging effect on people in Africa, according to the African Development Indicators report released by the World Bank….’ (March 18, 2010 article)

It's time for class.... where is the teacher to be found?

Edison, Charles and Erik, our colleagues from Uganda, did a short skit illustrating the different points in the primary education system where corruption happens. Their points correlated well with this summary of quiet corruption in education from a July 5, 2010 article in the Independent:

‘Early this year, the Transparency International (TI) Africa Education Watch Programme report: Africa Education Watch: good governance lessons for primary education showed that the government’s perception that massive enrollment is a sign of success of the UPE [universal primary education] programme must be revised to address the problem of overcrowding in classrooms, studying under trees, poor financial management, illegal fees, and lack of school inspection. The report exposes irritating embezzlement of UPE funds and abuse of authority by head-teachers who charge illegal fees, make students offer labour on teachers’ projects, sexual harassment, and systematic teacher absenteeism. The report noted that 85% of schools surveyed had either deficient accounting systems or none at all. In most cases, financial records were either unavailable or incomplete. The survey found limited financial documentation at district education offices and at schools. Most people who handle school grants had no training in basic finance management.

Another survey titled, The Efficiency of Public Education in Uganda, conducted in 2007 by the Ministry of Education to determine efficiency in provision of education services found an average rate of teacher absenteeism of 27% in Uganda, compared to other countries like Zambia (17%), and Papa New Guinea (15%). The aggregate loss caused by this absenteeism constituted 19% which translates into Shs 53 billion out of the Shs276 billion of the Education ministry’s wage bill.

In a swift headcount at the beginning of this year, the Education ministry established that the number of pupils listed in primary school registers was 25% higher than those actually studying. Similarly, the report established that the number of students in lower secondary schools had been exaggerated by 12%. For instance at Amaji Primary School last year, the school register had 816 pupils. But when the headcount was conducted the school administration could not account for 302 pupils.

It is reported that many districts’ chief administrative officers have failed to show proper accountability for the UPE and USE funds.’

The Uganda team also explained that:

  • Parental interest in education is very low because since Universal Primary Education launched, parents feel it’s the government’s responsibility. Some youth we were working with in Kenya last year made a short film about poor performance in primary schools covering the same issue  (see below).
  • Teachers’ salaries are paid directly to their bank accounts, and there is no way to punish them if they don’t show up.
  • There are mechanisms to ensure that donor funds go from the national level to the district level and then on to the school, but no accountability mechanisms to ensure that they get from the school to the classroom and are translated into quality education for children.
  • District level government authority and accountability ends when they transfer funds to the schools; school directors can report to them that they have received funding and that everything is going fine when it’s really not.
  • Local school committees are often made up of people who are not neutral and who do not have the best interest of the children in mind. In some cases, school committee positions are used for personal gain and to launch individual political careers and political campaigns.
  • Lack of parental and community involvement in the education process and in school governance means that no one is demanding accountability from teachers and schools.
  • Sexual and physical violence in schools is very common and underreported. When it is reported, often nothing is done about it.
(Start playing the video, then click the small ‘cc’ button to turn on captions in English)

Colleagues from the other countries face the same challenges in their work and in their own children’s education.

Can ICTs play a role?

What is the solution then? Colleagues suggest that motivating parents and the community to get more involved in school governance and demanding transparency and accountability can begin to change the situation. This obviously requires a lot more than ICTs. So several different actions would be taken to engage and motivate parents and the community to take a bigger role in their children’s education. Then ICTs can be integrated into and support the process for sharing education information with parents, such as student absenteeism, grades, parent-school meetings, exam dates and scores, etc. Parents and students would also be able to report when teachers do not show up or suspected corruption. Students could also report abusive teachers, absent teachers, and other issues they are not happy with at the school. A neutral party would manage and hold the information that flows in and out to protect students from reprisal and to protect teachers from any abuse of the system in case fraudulent or incorrect information is reported. Commitment from those responsible for overseeing education to respond to the issues raised and take serious action is also needed, and this may be the biggest challenge overall. Plan can play a role there, leveraging existing relationships with local and national governments and Ministries.

The idea needs quite a bit of further work, a closer look at feasibility, and more research and input from local communities and parents. As mentioned, the ICTs are actually a small, but potentially very important, part of a much larger initiative to get parents and communities involved in school governance to demand transparent, accountable and quality education and budget spending.

Challenges in the process

Some of the challenges that we had to manage well during this initial piece of the longer process included:

  • We needed to ensure that we were starting with the context and the need for better information and communications, not starting with the technology and devices and building initiatives around them. Yet we also had to avoid getting lost in the overall context and missing the opportunity to pinpoint potential ICT solutions at specific places within the context. Role play and flip chart illustrations of the  ‘problem’ and the ‘solutions’ were very useful for getting more concrete (“So, Kofi is here in his community and he wants to …. So he uses xxx to do this, and then this happens and then….).
  • Though we wanted to specifically look at places that mobiles and other ICTs could support, it was important to list out all the factors that needed to be in place in order for the ICTs to work and to think clearly about the constraints we might face during implementation. One good question to help with that was, after seeing an idea or ICT solution presented, to ask “What needs to be in place in order for that to happen?” Then you start to remember critical things like community motivation, government interest to actually resolve a problem, electricity, someone to set up and manage a server, a strong enough network to download multimedia content, mobile versions of websites, educational content re-design for mobiles, teacher training on how to integrate ICTs in the classroom, limitations of SMS for doing something other than rote learning, higher versions of a mobile operating system, a smart phone, etc.
  • We had input from a potential corporate partner during the process. We learned that corporations are thinking several years ahead to what will be coming down the line; however non-profit are normally working within existing constraints and trying to find solutions that work here and now in the resource poor places where we work or ways to get around those constraints. Multi-level solutions seemed to be a good possibility; eg., ideas that can rely on SMS today, but have potential to expand as networks expand and data enabled mobiles become more available.
  • A corporation tends to think in terms of vendors, results, timelines, launch dates, price points, return on investment whereas a non-profit (at least ours) tends to think in terms of community members, organizations, process, participation, local context. Our facilitator even told us that a corporation normally does a presentation by starting with the solution, and then spending the rest of the presentation showing why that is the right solution. A non-profit usually starts a presentation by sharing all the context and background, and showing the process that led to eventually reaching the potential solution, including every step along the way, how ownership was achieved in the process, why different decisions were made and who participated in them. So keeping corporate vs non-profit cultures and languages in mind is also important when working on joint initiatives.
  • We need to remember to establish measurable indicators of success so that we can tell if this new type of intervention has a different/ better/ greater / lesser impact than carrying out a similar process without ICTs or with a different set of ICTs. This is something we will address once the full idea is developed. Impact measurement is very important to both corporate partners and development organizations.
  • This was the first time many were involved a process of this kind, so keeping the balance between technology and development goals was a constant challenge. We sometimes veered too far towards focusing on all the details of the context and then back to focusing too much on that piece of the context where a potential technology solution was seen. I think we were moving toward a pretty healthy mix of both. The process is nowhere near complete, and as we continue to work on the ideas and look at feasibility and actual implementation, we should find the sweet spot.
The work above was guided by Plan Finland’s recent publication ICT Enabled Development – Using ICT strategically to support Plan’s work.  On the whole, it was a great learning process for everyone involved, and we came up with some good ideas that we will flesh out in the coming months. Having the opportunity to patiently and carefully think through areas and ways that ICTs can support program goals around education and discussing the ideas at length with colleagues was a capacity strengthening exercise for all involved and will mean that we will be more prone in general to thinking about incorporating ICTs in our work going forward.


ICT-Enabled Development

Plan’s Education Strategy 2010-2013

African Development Indicators Report by the World Bank

Africa Education Watch: Good Governance Lessons for Primary Education by Transparency International

The Efficiency of Public Education in Uganda by the World Bank

Learn without Fear Report on School Violence by Plan. Summary and Full Report (also available in French and Spanish).

Painful lessons: the politics of preventing sexual violence and bullying at school by the Overseas Development Institute

Expel violence! A systematic review of interventions to prevent corporal punishment, sexual violence and bullying in schools by the International Observatory on Violence in Schools

School violence in OECD countries by Karen Moore, Nicola Jones and Emma Broadbent

Update: Owen Barder published an interesting post called Development 3.0 – is social accountability the answer, which refers to social accountability in education in Uganda and links to 2 other quite interesting papers: Fighting corruption to improve schooling: evidence from a newspaper campaign in Uganda; and a 2007 paper by the Center for Global Development challenging the findings of that paper: Putting the Power of Transparency in Context: Information’s Role in Reducing Corruption in Uganda’s Education Sector

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Community-based child protection

New Plan report on ICT-enabled development

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One of the main programs I support is a youth arts, technology and media program called ‘YETAM‘.  The program supports youth to identify and raise issues that they consider important, and then helps them engage their communities to resolve the issues they’ve raised. The youth have talked a lot about water in most of the places where I’ve been working in the past couple years, probably because children and youth tend to be the ones responsible for carrying water.

As part of the project in Okola District in Cameroon last year, youth mapped their community and prioritized their issues. One of their top issues was water. They made this film together about the water problem and shared it with the community adults and local authorities.

Probleme d’eau Potable – The Potable Water Problem (for subtitles, click on the arrow on the bottom right hand side of the video player and then click on the red ‘cc’ button)

Spurred on by the project and the organized youth, a few months later the community got to work fixing one of their water sources. They put in some resources and so did our local office.

La quete d’eau potable – Lack of Potable Water part 2.

Here are a couple other videos about water filmed by youth….

The Community Water Tank from El Salvador about what happens when water sources are not kept up (click on link as it’s not available on YouTube yet)

Djiko: l’eau potable a song youth wrote to remind communities about water scarcity in Mali

Water – Amazi where youth interview a rural family about water scarcity in Rwanda

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A catalyst for positive change

Youth empowerment through tech, arts and media

Meeting in the middle

An example of youth-led community change in Mali

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Plan just released a new report called ICT Enabled Development: Using ICT strategically to support Plan’s work. The report is part of an on-going process by Plan Finland (kudos to Mika Valitalo for leading the process) in collaboration with Plan USA to support Plan’s country offices in Africa to use ICTs strategically and effectively in their development work. It was written by Hannah Beardon and builds on the Mobiles for Development Guide that Plan Finland produced (also written by Hannah) in 2009.

The idea for the report came out of our work with staff and communities, and the sense that we needed to better understand and document the ICT4D context in the different countries where we are working. Country offices wanted to strengthen their capacities to strategically incorporate ICTs into their work and to ensure that any fund-raising efforts for ICTs were stemming from real needs and interest from the ground. Plan offices were also in the process of updating their long-term strategic plans and wanted to think through how and where they could incorporate ICTs in their work internally and with communities.

The process for creating the report included 2-day workshops with staff in 5 countries, using a methodology that Mika, Hannah and I put together. We created a set of ICT training materials and discussion questions and used a ‘distance-learning’ process, working with a point person in each office who planned and carried out the workshop. Mika and I supported via Skype and email.

Hannah researched existing reports and initiatives by participating offices to find evidence and examples of ICT use. She also held phone or skype conversations with key staff at the country and regional levels around their ICT use, needs and challenges, and pulled together information on the national ICT context for each country.

The first section of the report explains the concept of ‘ICT enabled development’ and why it is important for Plan and other development organizations to take on board. “With so many ICT tools and applications now available, the job of a development organization is no longer to compensate for lack of access but to find innovative and effective ways of putting the tools to development ends. This means not only developing separate projects to install ICTs in under-served communities, but looking at key development challenges and needs with an ICT eye, asking ‘how could ICTs help to overcome this problem’?

Drawing on the research, conversations, workshop input and feedback from staff, and documented experience using ICTs in Plan’s work, Hannah created a checklist with 10 key areas to think about when planning ICT-enabled development efforts.

  1. Context Analysis: what is happening with ICT (for development) in the country or region?
  2. Defining the need: what problems can ICT help overcome? what opportunities can it create?
  3. Choosing a strategy: what kind of ICT4D is needed? direct? internal? strategic?
  4. Undertaking a participatory communications assessment: who will benefit from this use of ICT and how?
  5. Choosing the technology: what ICTs/applications are available to meet this need or goal?
  6. Adjusting the content: can people understand and use the information provided for and by the ICTs?
  7. Building and using capacity: what kind of support will people need to use and benefit from the ICT, and to innovate around it?
  8. Monitoring progress: how do you know if the ICT is helping meet the development goal or need?
  9. Keeping it going: how can you manage risks and keep up with changes?
  10. Learning from each other: what has been done before, and what have you learned that others could use?

The checklist helps to ensure that ICT use is linked to real development needs and priorities and appropriate for those who are participating in an initiative or a project. The report elaborates on the 10 key areas with detailed observations, learning and examples to illustrate them and to help orient others who are working on similar initiatives. It places the checklist into a 4-stage process for ICT integration.

  1. Understanding the context for ICT work: includes external context and internal experience and capacity
  2. Finding a match between priorities and possibilities: rooting the system in local needs and priorities and finding good uses for tools and applications
  3. Planning and implementing concrete initiatives: carrying out participatory assessments, linking to other development processes and addressing technical issues and concerns
  4. Building a culture of systematic, sustained and strategic use of ICTs: linking ICTs with program work, transforming the role of ‘the ICT guy’, and building expertise on the cultural and social aspects of ICT use

Additional material and case studies, ICT country briefings, and an overview of Plan’s current work with ICT4D in Africa are offered at the end of the report.

The report includes input from Plan staff in Ghana, Mali, Mozambique, Senegal and Uganda who participated in the ICT4D workshops. It also draws heavily on some of the work that Mika has been doing in Finland and Kenya, and work that I’ve been involved in and have written about in Mali, Cameroon, Mozambique, Ghana, Benin and Kenya involving staff, community members and community youth. You can contact Mika to get the workshop methodology in French or English or to comment on the report (ict4d [at] plan [dot] fi).

There’s so much rich material in the report that I almost want to summarize the whole thing here on my blog, section by section, so that people will take the time to read it…  I think this is a really important and useful piece of work and we’re very excited that it’s now available! Download it here.

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ICT4D in Uganda: ICT does not equal computers

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It’s all part of the ICT jigsaw: Plan Mozambique ICT4D workshops

A positively brilliant ICT4D workshop in Kwale, Kenya

7 or more questions to ask before adding ICTs (Benin)

A catalyst for positive change (Cameroon)

Salim’s ICT advice part 1: consider both process and passion (Kenya)

Salim’s ICT advice part 2: innovate but keep it real (Kenya)

Meeting in the middle

I and C, then T (US)

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2 weeks already!

I can’t believe I’ve been back so long and haven’t posted anything. There was a lot to catch up on at the house (as in my dear son Daniel didn’t clean for the last 3 weeks and there was no food except the moldy stuff that was still there from before I left….). Work was also a bit of a catch up, being back at the office and seeing what was up with the youth engagement team and the rest of the office. The first thing I did was try to sort through all the big initiatives that I’m working on to see if I can actually do them all in a quality way. Starting now I need to start saying ‘no’ or I will be in too deep with stuff.

We are almost finished with the 4 Virtual Visits that we’ve done through the US office. The Dominican Republic should be done next week and then we just have to finish El Salvador. It will be nice to have that off my plate as they were hanging there for awhile without being finished. Good experience though to know exactly what needs to be done for the new ones, and how long it takes, and some good ways of going about it. http://www.dotsub.com/, the website we use for subtitling will be moving to their new site next week, and it’s looking great. Michael called me tonight though to let me know that the virtual visit maps don’t show up on Firefox with a Mac so need to figure out what’s going on there….

Lots is going on in the US office with the plan to work in more new technology and social media so I’m happy about that. I worked with the new strategic operations vice president on a short concept paper linking constituency building, youth engagement and new technology together to present to the executive team to see how we can really get going. I think it’s a good niche for us as an organization because we have so much global experience with child and youth media.

OK more later, hopefully with photos so it’s easier to keep reading….

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Today was our last day in Senegal and we’d planned to do something with Aissatou, one of the girls who had come to the US youth conference in 2004. We took a cab downtown and walked around with her for awhile and then we went to the Dakar museum which was cool. They have lots of statues, masks and carvings related to different ritual ceremonies from the peoples of W. Africa. Most of the ceremonies and carvings are related to female initiation (excision), male initiation (circumcision) and fertility. Aissatou told me that female circumcision is now illegal but that many people in the South of Senegal still practice it and it’s quite dangerous. They consider that men and women are unmarriageable if they are not circumcised or they don’t go through the initiation ceremonies. I knew this from work where we do work around awareness raising to mobilize communities and help support the women who don’t circumcise their daughters. It’s hard to change this kind of thing though.

We went to the market after the museum and got just a couple of things, and then met Laye and took a car rapide to N’gor, where we caught a water taxi out to the N’gor island. The beach out there was really nice. We sat on some mats, listened to people’s reggae music and relaxed till about 4 when we headed back to pack and get ready to go to the airport.

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We finished up the workshop this morning by watching the short videos we made the first day, reminding people what they had said their expectations were. It was a good way to really take people back to the first day, how they were feeling and to track what we’d all learned about the project and each other in the week of workshops. We all felt we’d come a long way towards a common understanding of the vision and attitudes required for successful implementation. So I was happy about that.

Went back to the office after lunch to tie up any loose ends and got home about 7. It’s my birthday today and Clare made me this awesome dinner and a surprise cake! She’s awesome and really loves to do stuff for people, especially on holidays. It’s always good to have birthday outside of the US because that way they don’t count and you can pretend they didn’t happen!

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We had a field trip today to the Notto community in the Thies district where Plan Senegal is going to be implementing the project. I took Clare so she would get to see some of Senegal outside of Dakar.

Photo: Community notables with Papesidy (center) explaining the project.

We stopped at the Thies Program Unit (PU) Office first. (Click on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liX3VniQ11c for a video of the PU Office.)

Papesidy is the manager of the Theis PU. Within the Plan structure, most countries have a Country Office (CO) and then a few PUs which are district offices closer out to where the communities that we’re working with are. Each PU has staff (100% local people) that manage programs, sponsorship, grants, finance, etc., and that report into the CO. There are ‘community animators’ who have close relationships with the communities where we’re working on projects and who spend most of their time out in the communities helping facilitate the projects, supporting them to plan what they want to do and manage their projects, etc. They also spend quite a lot of their time managing communications between sponsors in the 17 Plan offices in the ‘north’ and the sponsored children in the communities in the ‘south’.

The meeting in Notto (the community in the Thies district that will participate in the YETAM project) was really long. When we got out of the car, we were surrounded by kids just staring at us for awhile and then we moved over underneath a tree and sat on some mats. The head imam from the village along with a few other ‘notables’ as they called them sat in chairs and addressed everyone in Wolof (one of the main local languages in Senegal) to start the meeting. We had translation in French and I realized I’m understanding pretty well actually! They gave thanks to God and prayed, saying that the prayers would be to the Muslim, Christian or Jewish Gods and we all pray to the same one God. Then we were welcomed to the community, and the children and youth were encouraged to put their total trust into the people from Plan who would come work with them on the project. We were told that we should to think of the community as our family – that we had mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles in the community and that they also had the same in us. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JkquUlusuk for some scenes from the meeting.

There was a really really long discussion then about the project. The community had been seeing it as an internet training project but after several exchanges and lots of interventions, it became clearer what the project is about. That through different arts and media the youth would learn how to better express themselves and the community would have the opportunity to take its place, to occupy its own space on the internet, and that it would be they themselves who would portray their community there, not people from the outside. There were lots of questions related to how they could access and use the internet if they didn’t attend school or read/write in French and if their community didn’t have an internet connection. But then the wife of the imam said that she hadn’t gone to school and she could do lots of things with her cellphone, so it was the same thing. After the community meeting everyone came up to us to say bye and Clare had lots of boys asking what her name is, how old she is, etc. She turned pretty pink. Photos: Community youth commenting on the project.

Photo: Papesidy filming a testimonial for the Nokia report.

On the way home we drove the back way through a whole bunch of urban communities right near the beach to avoid traffic. At one point we just plowed through this big sand field with all these guys playing soccer, making our own road as we went along. There was so much going on – people selling mangos, baobab fruits, fish, kids, goats, cars, busses, men and women sitting outside their houses chatting all along small winding streets next to big expanses of sandy beach leading to the shore. Along the beach the entire way was pure movement of people — playing soccer, doing sit ups, running in groups of 2-3 or in larger groups the size of a soccer team. (I’ve never been in a country where so many people jog – at all hours of the day in all types of gear and non-gear – from running shoes to flip flops to even small groups of women with headscarves). I kept thinking of Laye’s term “social living” and thinking this is really it. If I ever moved to Senegal I’d want to live in an area like this where people ‘live socially’ rather than the more exclusive neighborhoods where people tend to stay indoors more and the only people you really see outside are the men sitting in chairs in near the front door keeping an eye on things.

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Social Living

Yesterday we went through who all the different groups and people with something at stake in the project are, and what they might want out of the project and how we can ensure that we meet their expectations. This included the kids, adults and communities that are participating, people in African countries who will see and discuss the art and media the kids produce, the different Plan offices, ourselves personally, youth in the ‘north’, etc. Then we talked about the concept for the 3 week training in each country with the youth and shared ideas about how to do it, coming up with an action plan for each country and a common vision for how to structure the training as well as things to consider when adapting the project and training to each country’s/communities’ individual realities.

Today we drilled deeper into what Nokia needs from us in terms of communications, reports, PR efforts, etc. and went over social media, new technology in communications and how it links with this project as well as some of the other projects that Plan is doing. For example how mobile phones can be used for call centers in cases of child abuse or disasters. This is one of the main things I’m going to be doing for this year – looking at how to incorporate more new technology and social media into our programs to increase impact and improve them.

I met up with Laye finally after work. He came to the Regal restaurant near Mie’s house to meet me, and we took a Car Rapide downtown. The Car Rapide was a new experience – a lot like the busses in El Salvador. They are smallish busses, painted all colors, and are probably all 30-40 years old. People kind of cram in and the back doors are left open for people to hop on and off. They smell like diesel smoke, but the evening was cool and with all the windows open, the ride downtown was really nice. We got down at the Poste Medina stop and walked through down town for about an hour, taking some pictures and seeing things. I’d been missing ‘social living’ as Laye calls it – something I was used to in El Salvador.

Social Living it seems is what the majority of people in Senegal do. Spend much more time outside, ride on crowded busses, and live in closer quarters. We ended up in La Escala night club. I had a beer and Laye had a Coke since he stopped drinking a few years ago when he met his spiritual guide who counsels him on life. He is Muslim, so we talked about that for awhile and what it means to him. Basically he feels that through his spiritual guide he has come to know himself and therefore he can know God. There were a lot of fairly obvious sex workers in the club, and he explained that in Dakar there are licensed and non-licensed ones and that the prices range depending on the ‘quality’. Laye said he doesn’t do the nightclub scene and that he prefers Reggae parties. He learned his excellent English by listening to Reggae music.

I took a cab home around 12.30 and we made plans to do something later in the week. It will be fun to see more of the ‘real’ Dakar.

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Amsterdam was a nice break from things since it was about 20 degrees cooler. And there was great Indian food! Julie and I spent the rest of the week planning the workshop. We found out that Rwanda staff would be able to attend the workshop, but then there was confusion over who was processing their visas. We worked against time, but Julie found a way. She had to scan a visa letter and send it to Chrystel and Eugene (the Rwanda staff) by email for them to download/ print at the airport in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) before boarding their flight. A bit crazy but technology is just as useful as the government connections at these times and they made it – though without their luggage….

I was supposed to meet up with my friend Jessica’s Senegalese friend Laye on Saturday night and to see one of the youth that had attended a US conference in 2004 during the day, but Mie had gotten back from Benin and Togo and made plans for us to go to Saly – a resort type town about an hour and a half outside of Dakar so I postponed things till next week. Saly was gorgeous. We stayed at a really really cool hotel (Hotel Teranga) next to the beach for about $60 a night. Apparently Saly is known for older white women being able to ‘find’ young Senegalese men, but I didn’t see much of that myself. Photo: Hotel Teranga in Saly.

It took us about 3 hours to get there due to some really intense traffic, but it was worth it. We got to see a little bit of the countryside, though not much. At least some nice landscape with Baobab trees. Didn’t get out to the pool till about 3 p.m. and still got burned! Photo: baobab trees on route to Saly.

We went home on Sunday morning because Joa had to catch a flight to Ghana for some meetings that evening. (Though we later found out his flight was delayed and he had all kinds of trouble getting to Ghana and spent about 10 hours in the airport in Abidjan) because he didn’t have a visa to leave and get a hotel room. Photo: Beach at Saly.

The workshop got off to a slow start, but by around 11 the group was moving together and getting down to discussions about the project idea and where we hope to take things. We started off by giving people the little Flip cameras and having each participant film the person next to them introducing themselves and saying what their expectations were for the workshop. Photo: (left-right) Me, Bedo, Yaro, Papesidy, Anthony, Julie, Chrystel, Eugene.

Then we went onto presenting the project concept and showing the virtual visit we did in Togo so people would have an idea of what could be done in their own country. We had people from Senegal (Papesidy), Mali (Bedo and Yaro) and Rwanda (Chrystel and Eugene) and the Regional Office for Southern and East Africa (Anthony) – and some good questions and discussions. After going through the project outline, goals, results expected, budget, etc. so everyone would be on the same page, we spent the afternoon talking about the kind of attitudes necessary for the project and ways to ensure that we were creating an environment in the community that would allow for open expression and participation of the kids who are going to be involved. I’m really confident that the people involved will do a good job because everyone’s questions and input were really good and insightful.

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Saturday was an easy day. We slept in late and then we ran errands with Ben and Joa. I called and was told my laptop was ready for me at the office so we went there first. Well, it wasn’t ready or at the office. Hmmm. Sigh.

So then we went to the trampoline. Very cool concept. (See videos). It’s this square on the beach with 8 mini rectangular trampolines put together and you pay 500 cfas (about $1) to jump for 15 minutes. The kids adore it.

We went to eat at a place by the water for lunch and then stopped for fruit, veggies, and some amazing French style pastries. We took a swim and a shower to cool off. Clare is sooo brown now. She looks even more beautiful with all that color and the pink cheeks. Joa took us to the French Cultural Center for a Festival of Music around 5. It was in downtown Dakar which has some nice character and some older colonial homes, etc. The music – some was great and some not so great. Ben fell asleep in Clare’s arms which was totally sweet.

We had dinner and then picked up the unrepaired laptop and my hard drive…. Just hoping Plan Netherlands can fix it!

On Friday afternoon I took my first public taxi and was actually able to tell the guy where I wanted to go. Well, sort of – Clare mainly directed him as she has a better sense of direction and I did the talking. He asked if I liked “simple. .I got very confused as we went back and forth about whether I liked simple or not. Finally he said “you know, Sim Ple the ragga singer”and I realized he was saying “Sean Paul” who was playing in Dakar on Friday night!

I called Daniel to see how he was doing and he told me everything is fine. He got Clare’s grades and she also got straight A’s!

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