El Salvador’s ‘My First Bitcoin:’ How to teach a nation about crypto

El Salvador has seen the grassroots Mi Primer Bitcoin (or “My First Bitcoin”) program gain momentum. The first cohort of Bitcoiner-come-students began studies in May this year. The program was founded by John Dennehy (an American activist and journalist) and has the support of El Salvador’s government.

El Salvador’s first #Bitcoin diploma program launched with the support of its Ministry of Education pic.twitter.com/ajIHPHzqap
— Bitcoin Magazine (@BitcoinMagazine) May 2, 2022

Cointelegraph spoke to Dennehy, Gilberto Motto (El Salvador’s Director for Education) to learn more about the country’s successes and failures in Bitcoin education, and the rapid rate at which Bitcoin education has spread among the land of volcanoes.

The Genesis Block

El Salvador adopted Bitcoin (BTC), a legal tender, on June 8, 2021. President Nayib Bukele was the only one who could explain concepts such as seed phrases, Satoshis, and mining. “Bitcoin Beach” was the name given to El Zonte’s sleepy surf town, which is the birthplace for Bitcoin adoption in El Salvador.

The remaining 6 million people would be taught by the 3,000 residents. To be able save and transact bitcoin, Salvadorans will need to spend hundreds of hours learning, training and orange-pilling.

Bukele’s moment of entry into Bitcoin protocol. Source: Twitter

The Salvadoran government faced a daunting task. Cointelegraph was told by Motto that Article 6 of the Bitcoin Law approved on June 8, 2021 states that “The State will provide training for the use of cryptocurrency.” But what would that training look? How can the state quickly and efficiently introduce Bitcoin classes, when they would also need to learn how to use new money?

While the El Salvador experiment was unfolding, bitcoiners, commentators, and mainstream media watched. Dennehy, a former resident and worker in Latin America, said to Cointelegraph that he needed to be there immediately after the announcement of the law.

“I knew I wanted to make it work, and that it would be a success.”

Dennehy was “predisposed to the seperation of money and states” for some time. He became a passionate Bitcoiner after learning about Satoshi Nakamoto’s invention while living in Ecuador in 2013. He jokes that the first exchange he purchased Bitcoins from was hacked. This cost him approximately 2 BTC — which is now worth more than $40,000 as of this writing.

He had to find a way for him to contribute almost 10 years later, after the adoption of Bitcoin by the first country. He flew to El Salvador as soon as he could. He was surprised at how few vendors and merchants accept Bitcoin, just like other Bitcoiners who made the pilgrimage from El Salvador. Dennehy stated to Cointelegraph that there were “effectively zero [merchants]” when the law was in effect.

Rikki, a Bitcoin podcaster, and activist for human rights, spent 45 days in El Salvador, living off Bitcoin and nothing else. He told Cointelegraph similar stories of his adventures in Bitcoin Land. The government didn’t offer any education to El Salvadorans.

Cointelegraph was informed by Motto that Bitcoin has been integrated into financial education and financial literacy programs in the country. Motto explained to Cointelegraph that the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology collaborates with other institutions in relation to Bitcoin in the country.

“Including Bitcoin Beach Wallet and Mi Primer Bitcoin in the development a training module for Financial Education that includes updated content such as cryptocurrencies or electronic wallets.”

However, depending on a government or third-party to do things would be contrary to Bitcoin’s ethos of “don’t trust, verify.” It would be a good idea to launch a grassroots campaign to educate Bitcoin users, which would complement the government’s existing education programs.

Dennehy founded “Mi Primer Bitcoin” in 2021. This non-governmental organization offers free Bitcoin education to Salvadorans. Since then, it has received funding from both the LookingGlass and IBEX Mercado. This is a provider of services for Bitcoin and Lightning Network.

This is a worthwhile initiative that you should invest your time and effort in. We have a few spots available for Bitcoiners who want to make a difference at the grass root level. DM me if interested..https://t.co/y1cvrESJt1
— Svetski. UnCommunist.com (@SvetskiWrites), July 7, 2022

Dennehy learned about the project while he was settling in Salvador. He would casually ask, “Does anyone accept Bitcoin?” And he realized that not only did many people not accept Bitcoin, but also asked Dennehy for explanations.

“They wanted to know more. He said that they saw something with different levels of knowledge, but were generally interested in the subject.

Dennehy hosted preliminary meetings in AirBnBs, meeting rooms and was joined by some of the first teachers. Dennehy explains that the first class was held in a yoga studio on Sept. 24, 2021 “because we were starting at zero”.

“We had no funds, we had no spaces. […] In fact, only one student attended our first class,” he stated.

Dennehy and his colleagues remained unabated, despite their convictions forged in multiple Bitcoin bear markets. Classes had increased to nearly 80 students by October and more than 250 in November. The Bitcoin price was also on the rise — this could have been a catalyst.

“The truth is that interest levels change depending on the price.”

However, interest was maintained during the price action of 2022. In April, over 800 students enrolled in the class. However, the price fell to its lowest level for a year. Dennehy said that the classes are about financial literacy. They cover everything from the history and solutions of money. Education in Bitcoin and financial literacy go hand-in-hand.

Motto agreed with Dennehy’s assessment. Motto stated that Bitcoin and financial literacy must be used in tandem in El Salvador. “Savings. Paying taxes. Planning expenses. Other concepts. Unfortunately, not all the population understands how to use them.”

The Bitcoin Diploma program is targeted at teenagers. This means that they are most interested in learning about money and know that money is integrally linked to independence. Dennehy states that this is a smart move as they are most likely to spread the Bitcoin message throughout El Salvador.

“If we can reach every 16-year old or 17-year old in the country, it will be possible to effectively teach the whole country in one year.” This demographic is very strategic. They return home to talk to their families, their aunts and uncles, and their little brothers, sisters, and will also go back to school.

The week 10 examination for the Bitcoin Diploma is divided into four parts. First, create a wallet. The second part involves restoring it to another device. The second task is making a transaction on-chain. Find the transaction in the Blockchain Explorer and explain why it can be considered final.

Dennehy said that 10% of El Salvador’s population is now using Bitcoin. This was one year after his arrival. Cointelegraph also reported that nearly one-fifth (or more) of El Salvador’s merchants now accept Bitcoin.

Related: Morgan Stanley urges investors to purchase El Salvador eurobonds in a battered state

Although progress is evident, Dennehy stressed the fact that Bitcoin is a global cryptocurrency. The El Salvador progress could be replicated around the globe.

“We are focusing on El Salvador right now because we have limited resources, and El Salvador is our signal. This is the frontline. Our ambition is global. We want to make El Salvador a better place, and to make the world a better place.

He said that once we have created a template that works, the next step is to brand it as Bitcoin El Salvador and then open Bitcoin.

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Eileen Wilson

Eileen Wilson –Technology and Energy My Name is Eileen Wilson with more than 5 years of experience in the Stock market industry, I am energetic about Technology news, started my career as an author then, later climbing my way up towards success into senior positions. I can consider myself as the backbone behind the success and growth of topmagazinewire.com with a dream to expand the reach out of the industry on a global scale. I am also a contributor and an editor of the Technology and Energy category. I experienced a critical analysis of companies and extracted the most noteworthy information for our vibrant investor network.

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