Banking on Education

by Opportunity International
Nathan visits the Real Quality Junior School.
Nathan visits the Real Quality Junior School.

During 2014, Opportunity International’s Education Finance initiative achieved growth across key objectives including program outreach, staff and school proprietor training and expansion to new countries. Opportunity launched school proprietor training, youth financial literacy training and child savings accounts in four additional countries. As of February 2015, 7,764 children have attended financial literacy training at 156 schools, educating them on the importance of saving for and investing in their futures.

A growing school can permanently alter the socioeconomic reality of a community, creating an “upward spiral” of economic opportunities that provide families with the means to keep kids in school, forever changing the survival prospects of those families. Lydia and Antoli, the founding couple of Real Quality Junior School in Kampala, Uganda are delighted that their school can improve the future outlook for teachers, students and the entire community.  

Their school started out small, but thanks to their hard work and the support of Opportunity, the school has grown from 50 to 1,200 students. The school’s impact ripples beyond the students with more than 90 staff jobs and countless more jobs created within the surrounding community. Teachers at Real Quality Junior School are empowered with the right tools to help students succeed and they are inspired to make a lasting difference. Nathan, Opportunity International’s head of education finance, recently met with a few of our schools in Kampala, Uganda, including Real Quality Junior School. Opportunity first began working with this particular school when the children were just toddlers – today, the school boasts a clean water system, toilets, teacher housing, teacher training, sustainable cash flow and a 100% national exam passing rate. And this is just one of more than 1,000 schools that Opportunity is supporting globally. 


More than 67 million children worldwide are not in school. Many of these children belong to families who are struggling to escape poverty but do not have adequate resources to provide a better future for their children. Research shows that education is not only a proven path out of poverty but also improves life expectancy, boosts income and reduces child marriages. Education is a powerful tool that enables both children and adults to rise out of poverty. With this knowledge, Opportunity is committed to equipping families and education entrepreneurs with valuable financial services and training so that every child has the opportunity to learn in a classroom.

Opportunity’s multifaceted Education Finance Initiative supports the family with School Fee loans, insurance and Tertiary loans. School Fee loans and insurance through the recently launched EduSave program help keep children in school in the event of a parent’s or caregiver’s death or disablement. Additionally, Tertiary loans provide financial support for individuals who go on to receive higher education. To date, Opportunity has issued 6,200 School Fee loans that have served 19,200 students in Malawi, Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Dominican Republic.

The Education Finance Initiative also provides services to education entrepreneurs to ensure that the children who are able to attend school have an adequate school to attend. Opportunity has conducted eight targeted training sessions for 540 teachers and school proprietors in Ghana since Education Finance’s inception. In addition to Ghana, School Improvement loans are now offered in Uganda, Malawi, Rwanda, Dominican Republic and Kenya. In those countries, a total of 880 School Improvement loans have impacted 219,500 students who are now benefit from improved educational facilities that better equip them to break free from the cycle of poverty.

School proprietor and client, Franklyn, used Opportunity’s School Improvement Loans to recover from tragedy. A powerful storm destroyed the roof and two classrooms of the Tower of David Academy. The local bank considered the school too small and would not offer Franklyn a loan, but a student’s mother told her about Opportunity International. With her first Opportunity loan, Franklyn repaired the devastated roof and classrooms and purchased desks and computers. To date she has used four Opportunity loans to improve and expand her school which now serves 170 students in nine classrooms. Franklyn’s determination, paired with access to School Improvement loans, has supported transformational, education opportunities that provide hope for the future.


At the close of 2013, Opportunity International’s four education finance products — school improvement loans, school fee loans, tertiary loans, and EduSave school fee insurance — had helped school proprietors add classrooms, ensured that children could stay in school, and funded higher education. Thousands upon thousands of children are starting on the right foot because of investments in their education. The exact number of children who benefited from these investments in 2013? A stunning 572,350.

Opportunity has increased its loans in all areas of education, from school improvement to school fees. School improvement loans allow proprietors to install proper toilet facilities, purchase textbooks and desks, and provide their students with a safe educational environment. School fee loans mean that children can continue their educations, even if their parents cannot afford tuition. Tertiary loans help students pursue their dreams of university or vocational school. In Uganda alone, Opportunity plans to support an additional 3000 students with school fee loans by 2016. Eleven schools in Rwanda had received school improvement loans by the end of 2013, just one year after the launch of the program.

But education is about so much more than just loans. That’s why Opportunity provides training to school proprietors, to promote quality improvement and ensure they can effectively manage their schools. Training ranges from School Financial Management to Teacher Management to various pedagogical methods. 540 proprietors and teachers in Ghana – 80% of the school owners -- have participated in this training. Youth financial training has been implemented as well, with workshops on financial literacy and saving expected to affect 6000 at-risk Ugandan girls by early 2016.

Even after all the successes of 2013, we’re still not satisfied. We believe in sustainable development, and are in the middle of studying strategies for expanding our educational footprint in Tanzania, Colombia, India, and beyond. With the power of education, we can transform the lives of young people worldwide and break the cycle of poverty once and for all.


Wearing crisp uniforms and sitting in row upon row of wooden desks, a classroom of children follows a lesson with their teacher at the Maryhill Junior School in Uganda. When the teacher prompts, sometimes they answer in unison, other times a myriad of hands shoot in the air, students bursting to catch the teacher’s eye. This was not always the case in this farming town 25 kilometers outside Kampala, the capital city. It’s not hard to marvel at how far the school’s founder Thomas has come.

Through Thomas’ vision and hard work, the Maryhill Junior School has risen from humble beginnings. In 2006, when he was just in his mid-twenties, Thomas made a commitment. He was determined to provide a better education to the children in his community. Like most dreams, his started small. He leased two cramped rooms on a rented plot of land, opening his doors to welcome 37 students. Today, Thomas’ school serves 356 students from K-7, many of whom board on campus. Thomas is making his dream to provide education to his community a reality. Beyond that, the community has found his passion and vision contagious. In the early days, Thomas had to do nearly everything, but today he employs a cadre of 14 teachers and seven caregivers – that’s 21 adults making Thomas’ commitment happen.

His first loan of less than $2,000 allowed him to expand his school by renting more rooms. Over time, Thomas qualified for a larger, more flexible loan valuing $7,600 which he invested to construct kindergarten classrooms. He is currently leveraging his most recent loan of $25,000 to finance an assembly hall and clean running water and electricity in the primary block. It is because of the support of people like you that Thomas has been able to create such growth and community impact. 

Thomas makes a point of going above and beyond for his students, caring little if these selfless acts go unseen. This includes washing the uniforms and shoes of his students, sending them a clear message that they are worthy. When chatting about the future, Thomas says, “I have a dream to add computers, a library and clean running water in the rest of the units. I know I will achieve this with Opportunity as my business partner.”   

Maryhill Junior School
Maryhill Junior School

Education is the single largest determining factor for future economic status. Yet, 130 million young people worldwide are not in school—and 70 percent are girls. If a girl cannot complete secondary school, she is at a higher risk of illiteracy, HIV and early marriage, offering little chance of reaching her potential.

One out of every two people on this planet struggles to feed and educate their children. Your support helps Opportunity bring new educational opportunities to children in impoverished neighborhoods around the world. With financial support and business training, school proprietors can build schools and hire teachers, as well as add classrooms, meal services and lavatories. School Propietors like Thomas Balya Bugembe. 

Thomas, a former seminarian, dreamed of opening a school for the underserved students of Sonde, Uganda. In 2006, he opened Maryhill Kindergarten and Junior School with just 37 students in two rooms on land.

Enrollment grew steadily, and so did Thomas’ determination to improve the quality of education for his students -- whose parents were mostly subsistencefarmers.

With a series of incremental loans,Opportunity Uganda helped Thomas purchase his own land and expand the school to include a main hall and a kindergarten wing. He now has 14 qualified teachers at Maryhill Kindergarten and Junior School to help him serve nearly 400 Ugandan students.

Thomas says his partnership with Opportunity International will allow him to continue expanding the range of educational opportunities at Maryhill and offer a brighter future for students.

Thomas plans to construct a school library, complete with a computer lab and technological training for students. He has a vision of three separate buildings: one each for kindergarten students, day students and boarding students.

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Organization Information

Opportunity International

Location: Chicago, IL - USA
Project Leader:
Ally Lynch
Oak Brook, Illinois United States

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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