Tostan has come up with an intriguing way to teach basic literacy and numeracy, by tying it to the use of mobile phones, through their Jokko Initiative in Senegal. As part of this program, they teach basic literacy and numeracy to community participants, particularly women and girls.
They teach the cost-efficiency of sms texting relative to placing a call, which has immediate impact on the girls’ lives. They can use their newly acquired ability to read and write in their national language, Wolof, from the Community Empowerment Program, to compose and read text messages without assistance. Then, participants apply the skills they’ve gained to specific themes (such as health, agriculture, and the environment) relevant to their everyday lives. For example, to send text messages about vaccinations and awareness-raising campaigns, to make appointments at health clinics, and to ask for advice on matters concerning health and hygiene.
Tostan, UNICEF, and the Center of Evaluation for Global Action (CEGA) at the University of California, Berkeley, recently completed an evaluation of Jokko that shows great promise for using text messaging as a means for improving literacy and community development.