In the heart of The Gambia, Muhamadou B. Drammeh, a teacher, had a transformative idea: ‘What if children in his country who have never been to school could received a non-formal education in their native language? This idea came to him after an encounter with Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program in his community.

Born into the Mandinka tribe in Sanunding Village, Tumana District, Upper River Region, The Gambia, Muhamadou grew up speaking Mandinka, a language that encompasses a thousand years of written and oral scholarship and culture. Still, he never believed it could be used for structured education. After attending college, which was taught in English, and becoming a teacher, he was posted to Badare Basic Cycle School in 2008. There, he encountered Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program, which had been introduced in The Gambia in 2007.

Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program is delivered in native languages like Mandinka, Wollof, and Fula, empowers communities through education in their native tongues. When a facilitator based in the village used Muhamadou‘s classroom to teach adults, he began attending the sessions and developed a passion for community service. Through Tostan, he learned to read and write in Mandinka. He discovered a sustainable approach to community building which revolved around catalysing change in native languages and supporting communities to drive their change by themselves.

Inspired by the change he witnessed in Tostan partner communities, Muhamadou founded in 2012 the Tumana Agency for Development, a non-profit organisation dedicated to empowering his community and promoting girl child education. The organisation improves food security and provides skills training for young people, focusing on agricultural programs. Along the way, Tostan consistently supported Muhamadou in applying the knowledge he had gained through their facilitation.

In 2016, Muhamadou left his teaching job to dedicate himself fully to his community. Between 2020 and 2023, he trained over 250 young people in various skills, including beekeeping, horticulture production, and value addition, like honey production. As a result, thousands of families have become self-sufficient and financially independent. Today, as a proud member of the Tostan Training Center  Alumni, Muhamadou is joining the Community of Practice for Community Wellbeing to continue learning and sharing with his peers across many countries.

Muhamadou’s story highlights the power of native language education and the importance of community-driven development. By embracing the Mandinka language and Tostan’s innovative approach, he has transformed the lives of countless individuals in his community and beyond.