Creating Opportunity through Education
What’s at Stake
Limited access to education, especially for women and girls, presents a serious obstacle to community growth and development in many parts of rural Africa.
School facilities are often inadequate and located at great distances from communities. Many families still only send 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 hygiene and 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) learn that education is a human right.
In the final module of Tostan’s CEP, the Aawde, participants learn to read and write in their local languages, as well as basic math skills. Learning how to send and receive SMS text messages, through our Mobile Phone for Literacy and Development module, encourages participants to practice and share their newly acquired 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.
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.
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/forced marriage, girls are likely to stay in school for longer.
Our Mobile Phone for Literacy and Development module was evaluated in 2010 with promising results in text, numeric, phone literacy, and in closing the gender gap in phone use. After just four months, 73 percent of the total sample reported being able to read the text messages they receive—up from nine percent at the start of the project.