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Promoting dialogue amongst young people in Senegal and beyond

© UNICEF Senegal/2009/Shyrock
In Dakar, Senegal, Khadidiatou Diop and Mame Arame Mbaye, both 17, post their ideas about climate change on the UNICEF-supported Connecting Classrooms online forum.

By Rouxanna Lokhat

DAKAR, Senegal, 7 April 2010 – Mame Arame Mbaye, 17, is one of a group of girls at the John F. Kennedy High School who come to the computer lab each afternoon to exchange ideas with students from many countries. Today, they are writing about their opinions on health and climate change.

Mame writes about the future she envisions for Africa’s environment, as well as what she thinks the industrialized nations of the world should do to prevent Africa from suffering from their emissions.

She is typing her thoughts into the Connecting Classrooms platform, a technology initiative supported by UNICEF, which enables students from all over the globe to read her views. Mame hopes that her message from West Africa will reach students in France, Kenya and beyond.

Exchanging ideas
Khadidiatou Diop, another 17-year-old student at JFK − one of five Senegalese high schools participating in Connecting Classrooms − says there are many benefits to the programme. She is particularly enthusiastic about the opportunity it provides for her to improve her English by communicating with students from English-speaking countries.

© UNICEF Senegal/2009/Shyrock
Mame Arame Mbaye, 17, posts an essay about climate change on the Connecting Classrooms forum in Dakar, Senegal.

“I read and recite papers that the students have written in English,” she says. “The exchanges also help us understand other cultures without leaving our country.”

After the students post their thoughts on the forum, they can read other students’ ideas and post commentary. These exchanges address current issues such as food security, climate change and health. The programme is an integral part of UNICEF’s effort to develop more sustainable and inclusive dialogue among young people around the world.

Young voices are being heard

The information shared in the online forums can also be highlighted during international conferences to better understand the concerns of children. The students in Dakar say that they already feel their voices are being heard more clearly.

UNICEF Senegal will soon add more voices to the forum when it expands this pilot project to 75 additional schools in Senegal this year.

Khadidatou notes that the programme gives students the energy to continue with many of their goals, whether they are learning English or mobilizing movements to improve the environment. “It motivates us,” she says.



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