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Issue no. 2 - 2014 Governor Community Connection

Recent Highlights

By Opportunity International

Boosting School Performance in Ghana

The most powerful tool for breaking free from the cycle of poverty can be summed up in one simple word: education. However, for the 67 million children worldwide who aren’t in school, getting a quality education is much more complicated than it seems.

Opportunity’s education initiatives target ways to not only get those children into school, but also keep them there, through high-performing teachers and schools. With guidance and instrumental support from the Governors community since 2008, together we have served more than 1,000 schools in Ghana. Opportunity loans have empowered schools to hire teachers, purchase books and classroom supplies, build new classroom space and improve school infrastructure.

We’ve heard firsthand about the remarkable impact the changes have made for the children and their communities. Opportunity’s recent analysis of Ghanaian government data confirms that these critical investments, made possible by the Governors community, are making a real, measurable difference in children’s lives.

Our evaluation looked at how schools that received Opportunity loans fared in a nationwide assessment conducted by the local government. We compared school ratings before and after a 2.5-year lending cycle – and the results are heartening.  

The government of Ghana rates its schools on four levels, and the lowest-performing schools are deemed “ungraded.” Among the schools that received Opportunity loans, we measured highly significant improvements. First, 96 percent of the ungraded schools improved enough to become rated schools. Second, the Opportunity-funded schools that were already rated then improved by more than one full level on average.

Furthermore, schools receiving Opportunity loans experienced an increase in student enrollment – they’re now able to educate approximately 20 percent more students on average. This means that precious children are now in a classroom instead of on the streets.

In addition, Opportunity-supported schools were able to hire enough teachers to keep up with increased student demand. This way, the growth of a school’s population does not diminish the quality of the education the children receive.

Mobile Data Improving Farmers' Lives in Five Countries

In developed countries, we are accustomed to life in a digital world, but in many rural Opportunity markets, paper-based processes are still predominant. In five African countries, however, Opportunity is introducing new technology to more efficiently deliver loans and technical assistance to farmers. 

The program has been piloted in Uganda, Ghana and Mozambique and will soon be rolled out in Malawi and Tanzania. In these areas, our agriculture loan officers are using GPS-enabled tablets and phones to map the farms and capture a rich set of data about the land and the farmers. Opportunity uses this data to create customized recommendations for the farmers regarding their agricultural practices.

Not only is this electronic system more efficient for capturing and transferring information, but it ultimately helps farmers make better decisions about what to grow, how to maximize crop and livestock yields and how to manage risk.

“We can serve each client in their community with the most targeted products and services," explains John Magnay, Opportunity’s Head of Agriculture.

The mobile field data program is already paying off big dividends, with some Opportunity staffers logging electronic data for more than 100 clients per week. We thank all of our Governors who make Opportunity’s technological innovations possible.

Opportunity in the News

The following articles and segments boosted our efforts to increase brand awareness and the credibility of our work. More details on the following stories can be found here.

Forbes, Crain’s Chicago Business, DevEx, Reuters, Yahoo! Finance, The Chicago Sun-Times, among many others, featured Opportunity International's $22.7 million partnership with the Mastercard Foundation to launch the Africa Growth and Innovations Initiative.

CEO Vicki Escarra was a guest on Bloomberg Bottom Line, a business show with more than 3 million viewers in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

The Shriver Report published “International Women’s Day: We Still Have a Long Way to Go, Baby,” an editorial by Vicki.

In March, Vicki wrote an article, "International Women's Day — How Empowering One Impacts Many," for the Huffington Post’s Impact Blog.

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