News Post

Tandana Foundation: Hundreds of more women successfully complete literacy, numeracy program in Mali

29 Jan 2020

by Tandana Foundation

Of the 290 women who took the test, more than 90 percent of participants earned satisfactory scores or better on the final evaluations in the literacy and numeracy classes organized by The Tandana Foundation as part of its Women’s Literacy, Leadership, and Enterprise program in Mali. These results exceeded expectations for the most recent cohort of women in the program.

Specifically, 266 women earned a passing score (5/10) on the final test, which surpassed the goal of 240 participants. In addition, 200 women earned a 7/10 or higher score, indicating many of the students possess strong skills in literacy and numeracy.

The achievements by the women built on their success in the program’s first session this year. After six months, 246 students earned satisfactory scores, far exceeding the 150 passing scores that were projected and raising the expectations for the second session.

For 2019, Tandana was able to enhance its literacy and numeracy program thanks to the support of a Compassionate Impact Grant from the Foundation Beyond Belief. The grant allowed Tandana to increase the amount of classroom learning time by expanding each initial session to six months long, as opposed to only for three, four, or five months in previous iterations, and providing a three-month continuation session.

Beyond this improvement, other factors further contributed to students beating expectations on their final exam scores this year.

Tandana was able to improve the quality of the classes by providing materials to participating communities to construct semi-enclosed shade hangars for holding classes, if classrooms were otherwise unavailable. Having these buildings increased the number of hours daily devoted to class, since it was not necessary to wait for late afternoon shade, and also decreased the number of interruptions from passersby trying to greet the students. All classes were held five days a week for 3-5 hours.


Additionally, students were likely motivated by the enterprise proposal competition that was launched by Tandana last year to fund startups in the Bandiagara District’s women’s associations. After witnessing the success of the enterprises that received funding, students might have recognized that strong literacy and numeracy skills would be needed in order to submit winning proposals in next year’s competition.

A final factor leading to the great results this year was that five of the 10 literacy instructors were former students in the program, and seven of the 10 instructors were women – both significantly larger percentages than in past years. With their recent training and their experience, these instructors were able to relate well to their students and teach effectively.

Although the final test results were very positive, attendance in the program this session was affected by students missing class to conduct harvest work and by migration out of the area due to insecurity in the region.

“Overall, we are very pleased with the progress of our Women’s Literacy, Leadership, and Enterprise program and with the scores earned by students beating our expectations,” said Anna Taft, founder of The Tandana Foundation. “We are grateful for the Foundation Beyond Belief’s grant that assisted us in expanding our capacity to educate women in Mali and look forward to building on the success of the program next year.”

2020-jan-tandana-image-provided-for-q1-blog-1-resizedSince the literacy and numeracy classes were first offered by Tandana in 2006, nearly 1,000 women from communities in the Bandiagara District of Mali have successfully passed the final test.

The program has also provided the additional value of teaching students to read and write in the region’s language Tommo So, which previously did not have a written form. As Sophie Sorgho, a student in this year’s cohort, explained:

“Today, thanks to The Tandana Foundation, the Tommo So language has a great value because among the Dogon there are still a dozen languages that have no writing. It is a great opportunity for us women to be able to write and read in our own language through The Tandana Foundation. After the six months, I was able to write, read, and calculate.”


Tandana Foundation is a beneficiary of our Humanist Grants program.Your support helps us find, vet, and fund innovative secular non-profits like NCSE every quarter. Please help us continue this work by contributing to our Humanist Grants program today.


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