Creating Opportunity through Education

What’s at Stake

Limited access to education, especially for women and girls, presents a serious obstacle to community well-being and development in many parts of rural Africa.

For adults and adolescents who have not had access to formal school or who left school early, few or no educational resources exist to help them understand and navigate the challenges they face. 

For those where formal school is an option, school facilities are often inadequate and located at great distances from communities. Many families still prioritize sending boys to school, keeping girls at home to help with housework, agriculture, and looking after other siblings.

UNICEF and others have shown that educating girls not only helps them to become financially independent in the future, but also leads to decreases in maternal and infant mortality. Educated mothers are more likely to share good health practices with their families and communities, and they are more likely to send their own daughters to school.

What We’re Doing

Adults and adolescents who participate in our Community Empowerment Program (CEP) get access to empowering education that helps them to address important issues and transform education for their families and children.

Tostan’s program provides a comprehensive non-formal education solution that supports adults and adolescents with a range of knowledge, skills and experiences that help them navigate many important areas.

The entire program is designed to provide a foundational, empowering education for those who have previously had little or no formal education. This supports them to identify and work towards improved well-being – including education for their families.

The curriculum also provides vital educational resources. In particular, in the final phase of Tostan’s CEP, the Aawde, participants learn basic literacy skills in their local languages, as well as basic math skills. They learn how to send and receive SMS text messages, through our Mobile Phone for Literacy and Development module, which also encourages participants to practice and share their newly acquired literacy skills. Similarly, through our Reinforcement of Parental Practices Module, communities learn new ways to support their children at home in preparation for school.

Tostan also trains community leaders to organize for community well-being in education, and to advocate with local education partners for better services and resources.

Community Success

Communities transform the knowledge they learn during the Community Empowerment Program (CEP) into action, creating access to education for all.



Our CEP has increased primary school enrollment and retention rates and provided adult participants with basic literacy skills.

Community Management Committees (CMC) lead initiatives that ensure girls and boys are enrolled in school. When a family is considering removing their child from school, CMC members meet with them to discuss other possible solutions. If there are no public schools in the area, they petition the local government to build one.

Many communities have shown increased school enrolment for girls in the years following their participation in the program. As participating communities – and their neighbors – often pledge to abandon child marriage, girls are likely to stay in school for longer.

Key Metrics

people, mostly women, have improved their reading skills thanks to our innovative training on mobile phones (2022)

children enrolled in school in Mali in 2021 thanks to CMC activities

radio shows reinforcing CEP content broadcast in The Gambia in 2018

CMC-led awareness-raising activities held in Guinea-Bissau to promote education in 2021