A 2004 survey reported that half of the Malagasies live below the poverty level and that almost a third of the population over the age of 15 cannot read or write. A Population Reference Bureau fact sheet reported that less than a third of primary school children in Madagascar attend school beyond fifth grade. The Shama Foundation seeks to reduce the gap between primary and secondary school attendance and to provide motivated students with further access to a college, vocational, or technical education.

Because an education by itself does not guarantee a good job or an adequate standard of living, the Shama Foundation sees itself in partnership with those who promote the responsible economic, social and environmental development of Madagascar. However, higher education potentially means greater employment opportunities, as well as a greater source of skilled labor for industry. Education coupled with employment may encourage the growth of an active, literate middle class, likely committed to the ideals of freedom of thought and responsible action.