Health & education, App, Charity
How did the idea for Solodou come about?
Today I have the fortune of being a political refugee, after arriving in France during the winter of 2014, having crossed 8 African countries, the Mediterranean, and Spain. During that voyage, I was able to teach French in a private elementary school in Rabat, Morocco.
When I arrived in Paris, I didn’t know anyone, and so I had to move from place to place, always hoping that I’d find someone who could give me a home for the long term. That’s when I saw just how many of the people living in the immigrant centers weren’t able to speak French, even though some of them had already been here for years.
A family finally agreed to make a little space for me in the room they had in a residence hall. To thank them, I started giving them French lessons. The results were obvious very quickly, and everyone in the residence started to hear that there was a French teacher giving lessons for free.
As I went through the process of officially being declared a political refugee, I had to leave that residence and go live in a little hotel while I waited on the final decision of the judge.
Because I was further away, I couldn’t keep giving regular courses to my students, who had been working so hard. I could tell that it hurt them. That’s when I came up with the idea of developing an app that could take the place of the teacher and let them continue learning all on their own. And at the same time, it would be a way for anyone who struggled with literacy to escape from an invisible trap that most people are unaware of.
So I started studying using YouTube tutorials on coding, and then I signed up for web development training programs with Simplon.co and then Aston 94. After a few months of testing and iterating my app, I got to a product that’s strong enough to be put into the hands of the people who need it.
Who is this project aimed at?
All people who are affected by problems of illiteracy, especially those who need to learn French in order to better integrate themselves with the culture around them.
How widespread is illiteracy?
In France, there are almost 3 million people affected by illiteracy. Across the world, there are more than 750 million people in this situation. Roughly ⅔ are women, and 61 million children haven’t learned to read and write. In a country such as Serbia, 80% of women are illiterate. And 12 out of the 13 countries where over half of the population is illiterate are found in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Why do we refer to this as an “invisible trap”?
The first things that a migrant needs, once they’ve arrived in a new country, are housing and food, two of those key physiological needs that we find on Maslow’s famous pyramid. Once those are taken care of, most migrants need to find a way to repay the debts that they took on during the voyage and, many times, to support their families who they had to leave behind. And that is an entirely different challenge from the first. Once these people find jobs, which usually have strange, irregular hours, they don’t have the time or means to participate in language courses arranged by organizations or in an FLE (Français Langue Étrangère) center. And figuring out a few words to say (bonjour, bonsoir, merci, s’il vous plaît, etc.) is a long way from knowing how to read and write! It leads to a never-ending circle that’s very hard to escape from. What’s more, following the language courses in most teaching centers (where places are limited), requires signing up beforehand, even though people are arriving at all times of the year. Those people who are turned away don’t come back, especially given the extremely transient lives of migrants. And finally, there is the big reason that reveals why so many people struggle with this problem in our society: most people who are illiterate are ashamed to admit it. They prefer to stay in the shadows than to speak out. One story, told to me by an assistant at the unemployment office, shows exactly what happens: “Once, I met a man in my office, around 40 years old, who had been in France for over 10 years. I asked him to fill in the form and sign it; after he kept hesitating over and over, he told me that he had forgotten his glasses and that he couldn’t see what was written very well, so would I be kind enough to fill it in for him. I understood as soon as he said it, but what really struck me was the fact that he was so ASHAMED of saying it out loud, even though it was just the two of us in the office!” That these people feel shame pushes them even further into the darkness with their illiteracy - a real invisible trap!
Does Solodou help learning and teaching in all kinds of facilities?
The goal at Solodou is to become the world leader in ending illiteracy! Mobility is a key issue, and with the Solodou program, someone who starts taking a French course offered by an association or an FLE center, but who then moves to another city for whatever reason, can continue learning and start back again at another association or center without any problems. In time, being able to use Solodou will be a real advantage for all kinds of language centers in France.
How does it work?
Solodou is a Web App accompanied by a kit with reading and writing manuals that can help teach adults to read and write autonomously.
What’s in the Solodou kit?
Why is Solodou the right solution?
Most people affected by illiteracy have had a unusual and incredible life experiences. They are people who possess a great deal of intuition and understanding of the things going on around them. If you show them a little bit of confidence, they’re quick to show you their ingenious side! With the massive diffusion of smartphones, today most migrants have one and they’re quick to download various apps. And in the past few years, it has been Africa, even ahead of Asia, to see the largest penetration of mobile smartphone use, especially with the arrival of Samsung’s low cost smartphones. So they know how to use them and install apps that help them (WhatsApp, Facebook, Imo, etc.), as long as they know that they exist, of course.
Solodou is the right solution because it lets the user learn to read and write autonomously, without shame and without any rules about where or when. The app was designed to be simple and fun, with easy-to-navigate icons, images, audio and video for each lesson. As soon as they open the app, the user views an explanatory video showing how to use the app and the manuals included in the kit.
The combination of the app with the physical notebook lets learners practice and better memorize the content.
The money collected on KissKissBankBank will be counted as donations. Your donations are not considered a purchase, so we will not be able to provide you with an invoice. The funds collected will be used to finance the development of Solodou's activity, starting with the production of the first 1000 kits.
Social inclusion being Solodou's ultimate goal, the kits will be produced by and ESAT (Establishment and Help-Through-Work Service), where people with disabilities can earn a living through their work.
Here is how the money will be spent:
The content of the other 9 programs is already written, but I still do not have the means to start production - it will come later.
With 20,000 € I can produce the first 1000 kits, launch the V3 of the App and finalize the textbooks of levels 5 and 6 (the rest of the program B-A-BA for newcomers). I will then seek corporate sponsors to finance the following productions.
With 50,000 € I can do all this, and finalize levels 7 to 10, to start the commercialization of the resident program, for migrants with a residence permit and a job, seeking to improve their French for professional purposes. Each kit sold allows the distribution of a free kit to a newcomer.
With 100,000 € I can set up a semi-autonomous teaching program for levels 1 to 3, which cover the basics of French for non-French speakers or those who have never been to school.
Any sharing of this campaign on social networks where your loved ones help us achieve our goal: to bring down one of the biggest barriers to inclusion in the world, illiteracy!