On May 25, 2014, 100 communities from the Kolda, Ziguinchor, and Sédhiou regions of Senegal, who are current participants in Tostan’s Reinforcement of Parental Practices (RPP) module, gathered in the village of Salikégné in Kolda for a community engagement ceremony to show their commitment to promoting early childhood development in Senegal. Community slogans shared at the event, such as “A non-violent education for a harmonious development of the child”, “Interacting with babies aged zero to two years develops their intelligence”, and “A small step for babies, a giant step for mankind”, embodied the theme of the celebration.
The community engagement ceremony came at the end of the first cycle of the RPP module, where participants learned about the science behind human brain development and the best ways to develop children’s different forms of intelligence. This was followed by household visits by facilitators and expert primary caregivers who are trained by the facilitators so that they can, in turn, train parents and share information on achieving quality parent-infant interactions.
Leading up to this event, religious leaders were introduced to the importance of non-violent education of children through two-day seminars organized in regional coordinations in Kaolak and Kolda. The seminars focused on how the Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) educated his own children, an approach that is in line with the RPP module.
The ceremony was punctuated by festive entertainment provided by children who sang and danced to the rhythm of the djembés and doundouns (traditional instruments), and by a march of 300 expert primary caregivers and their children. After, the imam of Salikégné opened with a prayer and two religious leaders expressed their support for the program and the RPP team. This was followed by two expert primary caregivers who demonstrated the importance and effectiveness of the program and committed to spreading the knowledge they learned so far.
Community members also performed skits and dances, and a child read a book called Puccu, ‘horse’ in Pulaar, in front of the audience. The governor of Salikégné and Tostan representatives presented certificates to ten expert primary caregivers, who were selected for the dynamism, to acknowledge the positive parental practices they acquired. This was followed by the reading of a community engagement memorandum in French, Pulaar, and Mandinka by expert primary caregivers who had shown special effort to promote children’s healthy development. Previously, this group of caregivers called upon administrative and local authorities to make a budget for early childhood development initiatives as well as called for the Government of Senegal to prioritize early childhood development in 2015 and reach out to the African Union for its involvement.
The day concluded with Tostan representatives talking about the development context of the RPP, namely the scarcity of quality parenting and learning in schools. They also thanked all the stakeholders who contributed to the success of the event. The governor of the region of Kolda stated that education remains a priority for the Government of Senegal and that the RPP module could not have come at a better time, given the challenges faced by the education sector. Finally, he encouraged civil society to support the State for the implementation of this policy and praised Tostan for engaging communities to promote early childhood development in Senegal.