Education  Ghana Project #24631

EduFinance: Breaking Barriers to Quality Education

by Opportunity International
Joanna, a School Proprietor in Ghana
Joanna, a School Proprietor in Ghana

The nearby government schools in Joanna community aren’t able to offer local children the quality education they deserve—which is why so many children stay home to help their parents with farming or childcare rather than attending school. Joanna knew she could help, so five years ago, she started a school of her own to give local children a chance to learn.

Joanna invested her savings and purchased land and a small wooden structure for her first classroom. After enrollment quickly increased, Joanna applied for a loan with Opportunity to build two new classrooms to accommodate a wider age range of children, ensuring older siblings could stay in school instead of staying home to care for the younger children while their parents worked in the fields. Joanna also used part of the loan to dig a well, which has become an invaluable resource for the students and staff. With easy access to clean water, it is much easier to cook and keep the children clean and healthy. The school’s enrollment has grown as more parents see the benefit of sending their children to Joanna’s school. Today, her school serves approximately 250 students, providing them with the opportunity to learn important skills and break the cycle of poverty. Joanna plans to use her next loan to build bathrooms to further improve her school and increase attendance.

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Mary Florence was working as a primary school teacher when her husband passed away from AIDS. Left to raise her seven children on her teacher’s salary, Mary Florence worked tirelessly to make sure she could provide food and shelter for her children, as well as afford to send them to good schools. She knew many of her neighbors also struggled to find and pay for quality education, so she decided to open up a small home school in her community with just three children to start.

Due to the small size of her school, Mary Florence was unable to earn enough money to buy supplies and other necessary materials. Then a parent told her about Opportunity. Mary Florence took out a small loan to build her first classroom – and her school has only grown from there.

Over the last decade, Mary Florence has received more than ten loans from Opportunity, which she has used to continue building her school and to purchase textbooks, lab equipment, and computers. Now, her school employs 50 neighbors and serves about 500 students in primary and secondary school, with an additional 100 infants and toddlers in her nursery section. She plans to continue expanding her school by adding a boarding section to improve attendance and standards.

“I feel so happy and so blessed with Opportunity for really supporting this whole cause by helping us get the money to work and to be able to support our children.”

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Opportunity's EduFinance program bridges the gaps in funding for low-income and school proprietors in developing countriesTo this day, this program has facilitated school improvement loans for 489 schools while 264 schools have participated in our Education Quality program. 20, 087 of the kids that Opportunity has reached so far reside in Kenya. 

Kawangware is a slum in Nairobi, Kenya where Regina has been a resident since 1992. Having taught in government schools for many years, she saw the need for education in the community around her. With only three students and a small rental space in the slums, Regina founded the Revelation Ushindi School in 2002. 

Regina registered as soon we opened our office in Kenya, thus making her one of Opportunity's very first clients. Her first loan was used to rent a small room for the initial group of students but she has expanded greatly since then. She has, over the course of 9 years, paid teachers' salaries, bought textbooks and food for her pupils and maintained rental payments on what is now a large property. All this has been achieved by paying back and taking out new loans with Opportunity.  

Her school is a good quality facility that has not only created opportunities for children in the area but also working. Regina's school currently serves 80 pupils at full capacity which has led to the hiring of five people in her community, 4 teachers and a cook. The school has gained approval in the community for being affordable and clean. Although an education is a basic necessity, it is a scarce one, which is why Regina is happy to provide it to her community and considers this her biggest achievement. 

Despite continually facing the challenges that come with serving students in extreme poverty, Regina remains positive through it all. She continues to serve her pupils even when their parents are unable to pay school fees because she values the potential she sees in the children more than monetary value and has a deep love for her community. 

Regina's hope in the future is to expand her school outside of the slum. The current location comes with many distractions while moving to a new location would allow for a large fenced space and the enrollment of new students. 

 

Aurelia in front of one of her school buses
Aurelia in front of one of her school buses

Opportunity's EduFinance program addresses barriers to quality education by fostering change in the schools and communities we serve around the world. Since 2008, this program has delivered 151,861 loans valuing $81 million to improve schools and get kids in the classroom. Overall, Opportunity has reached 1.9 million children and provided them with access to quality education in their own communities. In 2016 alone, there was an 82% growth in School Improvement loans in Tanzania to empower teachers and proprietors to grow their schools—teachers like Aurelia.

For 18 years, Aurelia worked at a commercial bank. She was let go at the age of 45 when the branch where she worked was closed, so eight years ago, she decided to open a small school. Even when she was a banker, she had a passion for teaching. She knew she was well-equipped with knowledge. In her words, "Why should I stay idle with the education I have? My parents paid for my school and I should use that." So, Aurelia started her own school, the Young Roses Pre and Primary School in Tanzania, with a goal of building one new classroom each year.

When she started working with Opportunity, she received loans to tackle larger construction projects like the second classroom block and the beautiful dining hall. 

From her humble beginnings in 2007 with 9 students, the school has grown to a big school that employs 15 teachers and 12 support staff. They even have three school buses and a silo where they keep corn! 

Despite her big complex, she cares so much more about the quality of education than the infrastructure. She says, "I don't mind much about the buildings. I mind about the quality of education." 

One of Aurelia's favorite phrases is "old is gold." She has found that sometimes older teachers with more experience are much better suited to impart knowledge to her students. Her head teacher is in his 70s, and many of her teachers are older. All of them have been trained at teachers colleges. Because of the quality of education at Young Roses, Aurelia has a pile of applications - she says there are a LOT of university students looking for employment. 

School fees are always a challenge for Young Roses. Parents struggle to pay a full lump sum at once, so Aurelia began to partner with Opportunity to offer school fee loans to the students' families. Even with that option, though, students often jump from school to school, leaving unpaid balances at each.

When Aurelia thinks about the future, her primary goal is to find a new space. There is no more room to grow at the current location, so they need more space. They will also need money for new school construction. Wisely, Aurelia knows that it is risky to build a school on a loan because you have no idea how many people will show up. And Aurelia is so proud that she regularly pays her loans. She says, "I've never missed a month. I don't want to disappoint myself, and I don't want to disappoint people who have supported me."

Although Aurelia knows that she will undoubtedly face challenges in the future, she is confident that she will be able to expand her school, and she also dreams of one day opening a secondary school to provide children with the next stepping stone in their education. 

A student at Young Roses Pre and Primary School
A student at Young Roses Pre and Primary School

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Lawrence with his students.
Lawrence with his students.

Recognizing a huge gap in his community for affordable, high-quality education, Lawrence opened the Naggalama Junior School in Uganda in 2003 with 54 students. Four years ago he began to invest a series of Opportunity loans to build more classrooms, improve infrastructure and buy computers. Since then, the school has grown to a staff of 40 and a student body of 556. Lawrence says, “My teaching staff delivers outstanding curriculum and we understand what it takes to keep girls in school by honoring their true value and providing clean, dedicated toilet facilities. Student enrollment has grown tenfold, girl student attendance is up and kids are served nutritious meals.”

With a focus on getting and keeping girls in school, Lawrence says, “Before I updated the facilities, 20% of girls dropped out in grade six. Now, they have access to good hygiene and dedicated facilities and the dropout rate has markedly declined. Girls who stay in school live a better life; they are confident and empowered."

Gorret is one such student who has benefited from Lawrence’s facility improvements at Naggalama Junior School. Against all odds, 12-year-old Gorret is now on an education path that leads her closer to her dream of becoming a doctor. “I want to be a doctor because they provide an important service to the community," she said. "My school provides me with everything I need – good teachers, safe buildings and healthy food."

Lawrence is one of many local teachers who has joined others in a school cluster to create a community of support among educators; collectively shifting the standard of education toward better outcomes. Proprietors and teachers from 228 schools in Ghana and Uganda formed into self-selected, localized clusters in 2016. The school cluster model offers expanded proprietor and teacher training and coaching, and teachers use the essential tools and training they receive to improve their materials and curriculum. According to Lawrence, “As a member of a school cluster, I take advantage of capacity-building workshops that challenge me to grow personally and professionally. Now, I run my school like a business.”

Lawrence is empowering the next generation of young learners, and Opportunity is proud to partner with him as he achieves his goals, giving him the School Improvement Loans he needs to build more classrooms and improve his facilities.

Gorret at the Naggalama Junior School.
Gorret at the Naggalama Junior School.
Students at the Naggalama Junior School.
Students at the Naggalama Junior School.

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Organization Information

Opportunity International

Location: Chicago, IL - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.opportunity.org
Project Leader:
Ian Haisley
Chicago, IL United States

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