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Basic Education Assiut In ,,,,

Adult literacy: ‘Learn to be free’

Adult literacy programme teaches thousands of adults to be free

About 18% of adult men and 36% of adult women in Egypt are illiterate: more than a quarter of the population cannot read or write. These men and women have difficulty resolving their personal and family problems, let alone fully participate in social, economic, cultural and political life.

The Caritas Basic Education Programme supports adults all over Egypt to break the cycle of ignorance, poverty and disease. Our aim is to help all Egyptians realize their full potential and become active contributors to their communities.

Dialogue-based learning

The Caritas adult literacy programme is based on the dialogue method developed by Paulo Freire, which advocates the liberating of poor people through education.

We form groups of 15 to 20 adults that engage in interactive community learning. Each group has it’s own monitor (teacher). We link the learning process to real-life experiences, by focusing on words that touch the persons’ lives and society. This enables them to transfer from a theoretical level of dialog to a more practical one, in a more active and progressive way.

Since 1972 Caritas has been involved in the Basic Education. Between 1985 till 2016, over 25,000 classes have taken place, reaching some 425,000 adults, of which more than 84% female. We trained more than 2,600 literacy monitors, supervisors and coordinators.

In addition, Caritas adopts a ‘peers educational approach’. Based on the aid that students can give to their family members or neighbours who are eager to learn and who can’t frequent the literacy class.

More than language

The programme is not limited to teaching reading and writing skills alone, but takes an integral approach to learning. We cover a wide range of topics, including:

  • Reproductive health awareness and family planning – Health issues are a point of attraction and interest as it touches an important need for the women and their families.
  • Economic empowerment, including entrepreneurship – Illiterates suffer from poverty, therefore one of our main concerns is improving their economic situation. Economic empowerment especially for women, is also essential to enhance the woman’s role in sustaining her family in two ways. Either through having her own small project, or just by being more aware of practical ways to use or distribute the family’s rare resources better.
  • Malnutrition and health education – A critical issue in most villages is children suffering malnutrition. Through our classes mothers learn about the necessary follow-up on her child’s growth. Not just by providing meals, but also showing the healthy way to nourish the family and by getting analyses done and a paediatric right prescription if needed. Exchanging roles, these mothers become knowledge providers for others in the village.
  • Civic engagement – The program’s philosophy touches various critical points in one’s life. Therefore encourages participants to be enrolled in civic life. Our method based on dialog helps participants gain a new self-confidence, which provides them with a positive and active way of dealing with social – personal and family – problems.
  • Women and human rights – Developing a clear conscious during class discussions and seminars regarding women’s rights and all types of violence against women, contributes in regaining social balance, and a more peaceful family life. That’s besides, our monitors who are of the majority from these villages, being able to work and be leaders for these classes, evidence that women can play a role in our patriarchal society and be an advanced point in its inherited concepts change.
  • Access to village libraries – Village libraries had an original idea, helping our beneficiaries not to rebound to illiteracy, through their different activities. Alongside, another main aim is the change from a personal benefit to community welfare.

Experiences form participants and teachers

“Participating in this class, opened the doors of hope for me as a bird extending its’ wings to gather all the illiterates.”

Theresa’s family is very poor, and this impacted her life and education severely. However Theresa insisted on joining a class to learn sewing in addition to the literacy class. She mastered this craft and started to teach others. She is now marketing her own products through the productive family’s project.

“I realize now that time is like money and could be invested. Moreover, I feel actually very ambitious after I knew that my colleague became a lawyer.”

“I learned from the health awareness how to prepare for immediate help (medics) and from handicrafts lessons, I learned how to make useful things out of recycled paper. I also learned the value of trees and how much it is important to plant them for air purification.”

“Before joining the classes I used to be angry and unable to control my feelings in every difficult situation that I have to face with my husband or with others. However the dialogue in the classroom, discussing our problems and the sharing of our experiences taught me many things and made me apply them into my life. I am trying to deal more calmly with difficult situations even if the problem is very serious.”

“I have learnt many things at class and when I applied them I felt that I am of a value to the society and I am not just a woman, got married and have children.”

“My project expanded to be three projects as I established a partnership with my sister and my sister in law. We live in the same house, this strengthened our relationships. We were helping and encouraging each other rather than fighting. This made our relationship even stronger. Our husbands are very happy because we help them in earning our living expenses.”

A monitor from Luxor: “Working with Caritas helped me to open my eyes and to see the community needs, I become more eager to listen to others and respect their opinions. The most important thing I have learned is how to establish a dialogue with people.”

Area Coordinator in Aswan: “Caritas has completely changed my life to the extent that I managed to educate my daughters on freedom, confidence, dialogue, and responsibilities.”

Area Coordinator from Sohag: “My life totally changed since I worked with Caritas. I felt the need to develop myself. I became more open to other people and I decided to continue my education and got my B.A, in Sociology. I feel like I was born again when I joined Caritas.”

Facts & figures


  • 4,600 illiterate adults (age 16 – 45, 92% women) per year (2016-2017)
  • 600 monitors (teachers), supervisors (in charge of 5-6 classes), coordinators (in charge of about 20- classes), village library monitors (librarians) and coordinators per governorate


Alexandria, Cairo, Minia, Assuit, Sohag, Kena, Luxor and Aswan.


The literacy programme started in 1972 and is ongoing.

Project budget

The average budget is around €500,000 per year.


  • Sponsor(s): Misereor (Germany), Caritas France, CIDA, Swiss Fund, Drosos, among others
  • Local partner(s): Egyptian social Fund, Adult Education Authority, National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM), Arab Network for Literacy and Adult Education, among others



  • Combating harmful habits – Education has a positive influence on society habits like reducing female genital mutilation with a lucid conviction, a positive relationship between men and women as a result of mutual dialog, new understanding of raising children. Nutrition classes cause a significant improvement in child health. Women had their small business and contribute in family income.
  • Increase in school enrolment – Thanks to the literacy programme, there is a notable increase in school enrolment in villages where Caritas has been working for some time in different fields. A percentage of the literacy program participants continued their formal education, getting a high school diploma or a technical one and even a university degree.
  • Literate parents motivate their children – An evident conviction of the importance of education to our beneficiaries and their children and family members, is a great motivation for us to continue all efforts needed for combating illiteracy. None of those mothers will ever consent having an illiterate in their families.
  • Community development – A few of our libraries became foundations for social development inside the village. The foundations involve villagers, for all kinds of activities, including paving a street, covering a pond, eliminating mice, construction sunshades, etc.

More info

Contact: Salah Sebeh
Head of Basic Education
E: salah.sebeh@caritas-egypt.org
T: +(202)24310201 & +(202) 24310290