Somali youth are learning from the USAID sponsored soap opera Dab iyo Dahab that being good at math is not the same as knowing how to manage a household budget or run a business. In English, the title means “Fire and Gold.”
The innovative collaboration between USAID and the Education Development Center (EDC) proves positive things do happen for youth when technology, education, and culture come together.
Fire and Gold, created by young Somalis in the EDC team, is a soap opera that weaves the traditional Somali art of story-telling with interactive audio instruction, educating young people how to manage their finances. Currently, 1,850 Somali youth are learning financial literacy skills through the program.
Fatima, a young woman from Hargeisa, Somaliland, said of her training, “I succeeded to be recruited as an administrative assistant as a result of the USAID and EDC program.”
The lessons are broadcast through low-cost MP3-enabled devices that deliver high quality audio education on demand. Somali youth are like any other young people, and technology – in this case, MP3 devices – is very popular. Learning to be financially literate, it turns out, is also in high demand.
The MP3 device chosen, the Nokia 5310 cell phone, is capable of supporting a listening group of 30 students through a docking station without compromising learning and audio quality.
Phones have been distributed with pre-paid SIM cards to provide free access to content. Once a lesson has been played, students call the cellular service, and a character from the soap opera asks them to answer questions about the lesson.
Students then enter answers using the phone’s keypad, and immediately learn if their responses are right. If an answer is wrong, they are given further guidance and encouragement to answer correctly. Attendance data is also entered into the keypad, providing accurate monitoring, even in hard to reach areas.
Fire and Gold is being coordinated as part of USAID’s youth livelihoods program, known locally as Shaqodoon, the Somali word for “Job Seeker.” Shaqodoon began in 2008 and to date has given 10,000 Somali youth new opportunities in skills training and work experience, exceeding its target by 1,300.
Shaqodoon works with the vibrant Somali private sector in seven locations, identifying skills and employment opportunities based on market demands. Youth are coached to create a resume, apply for a job, and register in the job recruitment database, InfoMatch. InfoMatch, developed by USAID and the EDC teams, is an SMS-, web- and voice-based platform that enables young people to create mini resumes and apply for jobs. So far, 487 Somali businesses and 17,932 youth have registered with InfoMatch.
Though too early to tell the learning impact of Fire and Gold, the efforts of USAID and EDC are resonating. “All this new guidance gave me great confidence in myself,” says Fatima, a Shaqodoon graduate. She continued, “Thanks to USAID and EDC for giving the youth this golden opportunity.”