Northern Ghana presents an interesting case of the limitations of the conventional school system in reaching underserved and deprived populations with basic education. Due to the peculiar nature of its demographic characteristics and the socio-economic challenges that confront this area of Ghana, conventional school systems are unable to thrive and make an impact in remote areas. Many of these communities are sparsely populated and scattered making distance a hindrance to school. attendance. A major barrier to access and participation is also the cost. In poor deprived communities whether or not children attend school usually depends on the direct or indirect costs to families. Direct costs arises from schooling accessories such as uniforms, books and writing materials whilst the indirect costs are largely in the form of income lost from the child’s potential employment or contribution to household income through direct labor. Yet another obstacle is the official school calendar which usually conflicts with families’ economic activities to which the child is a crucial contributor. A growing number of NGOs and civil society organizations are introducing basic education initiatives that have been adjusted to reflect these demographic and socio-economic realities. Many of the NGOs try to promote the spirit of self-help efforts among poor rural people using strategies that encourage community participation and ownership of the basic education initiative. This paper describes and analyses the effort of one such NGO education programme known as the “School for Life” (SFL) in Northern Ghana. The paper examines the extent to which the activities of this organization are actually promoting self-help efforts in sustaining an aid initiated basic education programme. The acid test for aid effectiveness is what happens when it phases out - in that case is the initiative sustainable? The paper argues that for true sustainability to be achieved there is the need for a concerted working relationship between the aid programme provider and local government institutions because of the potential benefits that this relationship can bring in sustaining the programme once external support ends. Finally, using the SFL programme as an example, it argues that the key to promoting greater participation and commitment among rural communities towards basic education, is by showing that it can actually open up access to higher levels of education without conflicting with the socio-cultural and economic activities of the society.