What do you want to be when you grow up?
It’s a common question we ask our children as they grow and develop. It’s what my own parents asked me as I started school as a kid. It’s one of the first questions that dared me to dream; that allowed me to imagine a future full of possibilities and choices. What I didn’t realize back then, however, was how many children around the world never get that chance.
Today, a girl born in Uganda is four times more likely to have her first child than a high school diploma before reaching adulthood.1, For her, the future is not full of hope, but of worry and uncertainty. Around her, she’ll see families struggle to make ends meet, and the few schools she could attend will not be equipped to teach her.
Facing this crisis, I want to pose another question: What if we could reverse these statistics?
Research tells us that giving a child in a developing country the opportunity to get a good education will change everything about her future. She will be healthier and live longer; she will have fewer children and later in life; she will gain more decision-making power over who her spouse is, and her role in her household. Additionally, she will earn more income to provide for her future children, who will be healthier, more educated, and more likely to succeed in life. The outcomes are evident:
Education reduces poverty.
Education unlocks potential.
Education transforms lives.
Globally, solving the education crisis remains a priority for many governments, bi-lateral agencies, foundations, and NGOs. Despite these efforts, 617 million children and youth around the world aren't learning, including 263 million who do not attend school at all.3,4 Given the current pace of progress, many of us won’t see the education crisis resolved in our lifetime—not without a catalytic solution.
The goal of Opportunity International’s EduFinance initiative is to help accelerate an end to the global education crisis. 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 work, we believe, is accomplished much faster and more effectively with a bottom-up approach: investing in the potential of local parents and educators who, impatient with waiting for their local public schools to improve, build their own affordable private schools to provide the quality education they envision for their children.
With Opportunity’s education loans, parents can afford to send all their children to school when fees and other expenses are due, and school owners can invest in urgent improvements, such as building a new classroom or bathroom, or hiring new teachers.
With Opportunity’s education quality trainings and assessments, clusters of schools are collaboratively improving curriculum, teaching standards, and educational outcomes for their students.
The importance of this approach is that it is both sustainable and scalable to any developing country throughout the world. As loans are repaid—and 98% are—more educators and parents can help more kids go to school, year after year. To date, this work has helped transform the futures of more than 2.3 million children in developing communities.
Everywhere, parents want to give their children a good education, and educators are stepping up to fill the gaps left by public school systems. Access to capital, blended with trainings and localized support, provides the catalyst for affordable private schools to rapidly expand and improve— and continue expanding and improving, long after Opportunity’s first intervention.
For me, solving the global education crisis doesn’t have to be theoretical. I’ve seen parents and educators around the world already doing it—and doing it faster and better than I could have ever imagined. Instead, it’s simply a matter of how soon. How soon can we make sure all children— regardless of where they are born—have the opportunity to gain a quality education?
I have just one last question for you: Will you join us?
1. Uganda Bureau of Statistics, 2017. Demographic and Health Survey 2016: Key Indicators Report. http://www.ubos.org/onlinefiles/uploads/ubos/ pdf%20documents/Uganda_DHS_2016_KIR.pdf
2. Education Policy and Data Center, 2014. Uganda National Education Profile: 2014 Update. https:// www.epdc.org/sites/default/files/documents/ EPDC%20NEP_Uganda.pdf
3. World Bank Group, 2018. Learning to Realize Education's Promise. http://www.worldbank.org/en/ publication/wdr2018
4. 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