Opportunity International serves the education sector in three ways:
I. School Loans
Opportunity is working with a wide range of local, privately-owned schools targeting the poor. These schools fall into two categories:
- Emerging Schools: Located in a variety of areas from urban areas to small towns, these schools serve the children of the local working poor. They are capital-constrained, and have limited access to the mainstream banking market. Their facilities are sub-standard, but the quality of education is generally on par with public schools.
- Developing Schools: These schools consist of small, unaccredited schools and other child care facilities located in the most deprived sections of the urban centers, small towns or in the rural regions. Their students come from the poorest families.
Opportunity provides significant training to private school proprietors. Introductory topics include record keeping, finance and accounting methods and compiling legal documentation. Both Opportunity International's clients and staff participate in training in comprehensive business practices, ensuring sustainability and growth of the schools. These sessions prove to be useful tools in school development on all levels.
III. Innovative Microfinance Products
- School Fee Loans: The School Fee loan product is designed to assist families with paying their children's school fees. Experiencestrongly indicates that clients believe that education is a top priority, but that families do not always have access to resources to provide education for their children. By providing them with a small loan, Opportunity International enables families to pay out these fees over a period more compatible with their cash flow.
- School Savings Accounts for Children: Specialized, interest bearing school savings accounts are being developed in order to encourage families to save money for their child's education. These accounts will guarantee a child's assets in the event of the loss of guardians and help increase economic literacy of the parent and child through financial discipline. Opportunity International is in the early stages of piloting these saving accounts in Malawi and developing other financial products to assist parents with education fees.<br /><br />
Opportunity International currently finances over 200 small private schools in Africa, Asia and Latin America, which are operated as sole proprietor, for-profit businesses. Education entrepreneurs who run these schools are in desperate need of assistance, yet until now microfinance institutions have not created tailored products to meet the needs of schools. Inadequate financial resources result in overcrowded classrooms, inconvenient school locations, poor infrastructure and the absence of an effective learning environment, all of which inevitably result in underachievement, a truly disheartening outcome when the potential for change is so great.
Opportunity International's Banking on Education initiative offers financial products to the families as well as the education entrepreneurs looking to improve their schools. Families will be able to have special education savings accounts and funding for education, and the educational entrepreneurs will have the resources to build and run sustainable education programs in the most needy communities. Opportunity International is confident that the time is now to invest in education, for the sake of future generations.
Emerging schools consist of smaller schools, cr?ches, and other child-related care facilities located in the more deprived sections of the urban centers, small towns or in the rural regions. Their students are drawn from the lower classes, many at or just above the poverty line. Their infrastructure is quite rudimentary, and the pedagogical level most often very low. Emerging schools address the local, middle and the rising lower class students, and are spread throughout major urban areas and smaller towns. They are generally capital-constrained, relying on self-funding and have limited access to the mainstream banking market. Their facilities and pedagogical level are below world standards. IDP Rising schools are a Ghana-specific project that improves the quality of education offered in affordable non-government schools in poor urban and rural communities across Ghana.
SEEKING: financial assistance (A grant of $10,000 to the program finances another school for two to three years), best practice information, media and marketing opportunities.
April 2011: Funding partners
Education value-added service providers in Malawi, Ghana, Uganda, India.