For nine days, thirty-two young inmates answered to the beck and call of one hundred baby chicks at the juvenile prison in Dakar. This spring, Tostan conducted a training workshop on raising chickens in Senegal’s only youth prison. Tostan provided one hundred chicks for the training in order to give the young men the hands-on experience that will enable them to earn a viable income both during their incarceration and upon their release. Conversation was lively, inmates were active, and the sound of chirping chicks filled the air. The workshop consisted of four hours of training per day both in the classroom and with the chicks themselves.
During the training sessions, the inmates were engaged and excited to learn new skills. They clamored to help with the feeding and vaccinating, and they asked questions about practical skills and theory. It was hard to even see what the trainer was demonstrating at some points with the young men crowded so close, trying not to miss a thing. Guards took part as well, sitting in on theory sessions and helping demonstrate practical skills, asking questions, and learning alongside the young men they work with everyday.
The inmates are now responsible for providing food and water for the chicks, vaccinating them daily, and ensuring their overall wellbeing. Every day they note the chicks’ progress, the care provided, and any illness or abnormal behavior. The workshop facilitator, Cheick Sène, has extensive experience with poultry farming and spends time in the classroom explaining the conditions that will allow the chickens to thrive, the illnesses they might endure, the materials needed for their housing, the financial investment demanded, and much more. As the chicks grow into adulthood and start producing eggs, the inmates will get to sell the meat and eggs for additional income or use them to supplement their own plates during incarceration and after their release.
This training is just one example of the many ways that Tostan’s Prison Project supports and empowers these young detainees. When special workshops such as this one are not taking place, Tostan facilitator Mademba Thiam leads Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP) at the youth prison Monday through Friday, providing nonformal education in human rights, problem solving, literacy, and revenue generating skills. Matemba donates his time and comes early every day to teach a Math, French, or English class for more advanced students, giving them the opportunity to continue their studies and return to school after their release. Tostan provides access to education and practical skill trainings to support these young detainees’ reintegration as productive members of society and to reduce rates of recidivism.
Practical training workshops such as this one will continue in the coming months. The next training will teach fabric dyeing at the MAC prison in Thiès. This training will include thirty-five female prisoners and is planned to end with a community fair, where participants will be able to display and sell the items they will have made.
Stay tuned for updates on the next Prison Project training.
Story by Kaela McConnon, Assistant to the Empowered Communities Network