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Sunday, 6 October, 2002, 11:30 GMT 12:30 UK
Net informs Senegalese students
The high school hosts a Geep centre, BBC
The Geep computer centre has attracted lots of help
In many countries using a computer to browse the net is often seen as a solitary pursuit, one that cuts the ties between people and community.

But a development group in Senegal is turning this notion on its head. It is showing just how computers and the net can bring a community together, educate people and improve the quality of life.

Senegal's Groupe pour l'Etude et l'Enseignement de la Population (Group for Research and Development on Population) or Geep, is a non-governmental group working to raise standards of education and to tell people about important health and life issues.

Few cities, towns or schools in Senegal have adequate libraries and those that do exist rarely have modern textbooks.

Bad books

A Geep-backed centre at the Maurice Delafosse school in Dakar gives pupils access to the net and is helping them catch up.

"It is normal for there to be no text books," says Babacar Fall, Geep co-ordinator. "We have a new curriculum now, so we've been making our own text book and making it available on the internet."


Silence makes conservative ideas strong

Babacar Fall, Geep co-ordinator
"Before the computers, we were working with 10-year old books and people were having problems when they went abroad to study," says Dr Fall.

"Their knowledge wasn't up to scratch."

"They are now using the same teaching materials as people in Europe," he says.

A sizeable grant has helped to set up the Geep centre and equip it with computers but soon the money will run out.

To help the centre keep operating, staff and helpers are looking at ways of using its resources to make money by typing documents for people, taking photographs and so on.

African voice

But it is not just students who are getting the benefits of Geep. It also runs community programmes to educate people about health issues and uses the technology to help get the message across.

"Silence makes conservative ideas strong," says Dr Fall.

Geep cartoon, BBC
The centre uses interactive cartoons to raise awareness
Geep uses the school centre to train people to educate their own communities about combating malaria as well as HIV and Aids. It has set up hundreds of the education clubs across the country, though not all use computers and the net.

The communication is not all one way either. It is not simply a case of Senegal students taking information from the web, it also helps Africa assert itself internationally, believes Dr Fall.

"Having a voice is important," he says. "Africa needs food, it needs water, but it needs a voice and it needs that voice to be heard."

He adds: "Technology gives us a powerful tool to enable the rest of the world to learn about us and play an active role in development."


The digital divide

Escaping poverty

Having a voice

Sharing knowledge

Staying healthy

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See also:

08 Jun 01 | Africa
23 Apr 01 | Africa
08 Mar 01 | Africa
23 Jul 02 | Africa
24 Jun 02 | Business
21 Jan 02 | Africa
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