At Opportunity International, we are committed to one audacious goal: ending extreme poverty in our lifetimes. To achieve this vision, one of the most critical issues we must address is that of generational poverty—the situation in which generations of family members live in the same economic position, unable to grow or develop over time. When children of parents living in extreme poverty grow into parents of children living in extreme poverty, we know that something must change.
And we know that one key to this change is education.
For 47 years, Opportunity International has worked to lift families out of poverty by pioneering innovative financial solutions that help families build livelihoods for themselves and their communities, including savings-led banking for the poor, rural and agricultural lending, and micro-insurance development.
In 2007, in response to the universal desire of our clients to send their children to school, Opportunity launched the EduFinance initiative to offer a new, market-based, entrepreneurial approach to help solve the global education crisis. Instead of building schools, Opportunity builds the capacity of local communities to build and grow their own quality, affordable private schools.
Today, Opportunity offers the only systemic approach that helps more kids go to school and stay in school, while improving the quality of education schools provide. This initiative has empowered more than 2.3 million children with a better education in 16 developing countries.
By blending the sustainability of Education Finance with locally-driven Education Quality services, Opportunity offers a permanent solution that can be replicated in almost any developing community around the world to give children access to a good education.
Education Challenges and Opportunities
For children in developing regions, access to schools—good schools in particular—is all too scarce. Parents, with limited income, are unable to cover educational expenses for uniforms, fees, and lunches for all their children. Schools, with limited funding, are unable to build adequate facilities, hire new teachers, or offer transportation for rural students, many of whom must walk miles each day to attend school.
Due to these overwhelming obstacles, 617 million children and adolescents around the world aren't learning basic skills like reading and writing. This includes 263 million children and youth who have never started school or have already dropped out, and 354 million who do go to school, but aren’t learning.1
Yet for a child living in poverty, the more time she spends learning in the classroom, the greater her chances of success are in nearly every facet of her life. She will earn more; live longer; and reduce her chances of becoming victim to child marriage, teen pregnancy, and illnesses like HIV. Her children will be more likely to live longer and she will gain more confidence and decision-making power. A high-quality education can serve as the launching point for a child to work her way out of generational poverty.
The Opportunity EduFinance Model
Leveraging our expertise as a microfinance organization, Opportunity designed education-focused financial products to address the barriers that prevent families from sending their children to school and prevent schools from making much-needed improvements. Opportunity also recently launched a new arm of EduFinance, called Education Quality, to help local educators work together to transform the quality of education in their communities. Today, these programs help kids go to school, stay in school, and receive high-quality educations while they are there.
School Improvement Loans
After a local educator starts a school in her community, and as more students enroll, one of her most immediate needs is for capital. With a School Improvement Loan, she can invest in her school's most immediate infrastructure or staffing needs—for some school owners, it’s adding classrooms, textbooks, and desks; for others, it’s installing running water, dormitories, or gender-separated bathrooms—all of which are important provisions that keep students, especially girls, in school.
School Improvement Loans set the stage for rapid and sustainable improvements to schools in low-resource environments, ensuring more students will gain access to a better education, much faster.
School Fee Loans
Families living in extreme poverty often rely on seasonal income, and cash is often not readily available to cover educational costs at the start of school terms. This lack of cash at the right time often results in a child not enrolling or being pulled out over a temporary cash flow issue. Opportunity offers School Fee Loans that help ease the pressure of up-front educational costs, effectively spreading out the costs of their children’s education and helping prevent school drop-outs or missed classes during times of economic uncertainty.
Our Education Quality program seeks to deepen the skills and competencies of local school leaders, teachers, and staff using a sustainable, low-cost framework that can be replicated worldwide.
Through school clusters, small self-led networks of teachers and staff from 4-10 local private schools work together to spark collaboration, share best practices, and provide professional support. Opportunity works through the cluster model to deliver training and resources to these school leaders.
To support schools in planning and benchmarking quality improvements, Opportunity developed the Pathways to Excellence (P2E) guide, which is a first-of-its-kind assessment tool that provides school owners with an in-depth X-ray of their school’s strengths and weaknesses across 31 different domains. With P2E data, school leaders can target their school’s most pressing priorities and develop a plan to make improvements that provide their students with a higher quality education. The questions included in the P2E guide were informed by other industry-leading experts and designed in coordination with top educators from around the world.
Where We Work
Opportunity offers EduFinance programs in 16 countries, with plans to expand in the next two years. With $136 million in blended grant and debt capital, our goal is to reach 16.7M children in 45 developing countries by 2022, unlocking limitless possibilities for their futures.
Currently, we are reaching students and schools in:
- Latin America: Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Nicaragua
- Africa: Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe
- Asia: India, Philippines
We also have potential 2018-2019 expansion opportunities in:
- Latin America: Bolivia, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru
- Africa: Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Madagascar, South Africa, Zambia
- Asia: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan
Opportunity believes that the more children who can go to school today, the better tomorrow will be for all—which is why EduFinance’s solutions can be replicated almost anywhere in the developing world, for a low cost, and with educators who will continue to improve education in their communities for decades to come.
We are proud to be a leader in Education Finance and committed to growing this program—serving more students and more schools so that more families can break the cycle of generational poverty for good.
1. UNESCO, 2017. More than One-Half of Children and Adolescents Are Not Learning Worldwide. http://uis.unesco.org/sites/default/files/documents/ fs46-more-than-half-children-not-learning-en-2017. pdf