About Us Our Origins
Opportunity EduFinance was started by school owners and parents.
More specifically, Opportunity EduFinance was a response to ways that school owners and parents were already accessing and using finance from Opportunity International's partners.
Education entrepreneurs were accessing traditional small-medium enterprise (SME) loans from microfinance institutions to invest in the expansion of their schools, adding more classrooms and other improvements. But traditional SME loan repayment terms don't reflect the unique cash flow cycles of these affordable non-state schools, which generally collect student fees on a termly basis.
At the same time, our financial institution partners lending to micro-business owners and rural farming households were finding that a portion of the loans were being used to pay for children's school fees and expenses. That meant less investment into the business, less income generated and higher risk of loan non-repayment.
The opportunity was clear. Opportunity began conducting research and testing of education services in Ashaiman, Ghana in 2007. This small pilot was the start of Opportunity EduFinance.
Over the next five years, Opportunity conducted extensive research into parents' cash flow and repayment capacity, as well as the affordable non-state school sector, to design specialized financial products that could improve access to quality education for children in low-income communities.
What the research told us
After many interviews, focus group discussions and surveys, our research identified five major causes linked to children's absenteeism and school drop out across under-resourced communities.
- School is expensive
- School is too far away
- Education delivered by schools is low-quality
- Education is often not matched to local employment needs
- There is high risk of parents & caregivers facing disease, disability and death
With these findings and an existing network of financial institution partners, Opportunity EduFinance was launched to provide solutions to some of these challenges using social finance, with a singular mission to get more children into better schools.
2012 | The launch of Opportunity's EduFinance Technical Assistance Facility
EduFinance was designed around three key 'guardrails' to ensure all loan products, services and training that EduFinance provides is sustainable, scalable, and most importantly, addresses the root causes of the global education crisis.
The new EduFinance team started by working with existing financial institution partners in the Opportunity International network to help identify existing lending to school owners and parents using loans for school fees. The EduFinance team then worked with partners providing technical assistance to design and implement its two flagship education lending products - the school improvement loan and school fee loan products. These tailored products were better aligned to the needs of borrowers, simultaneously reducing the institution's lending risk.
2016 | Supporting School Leaders & Teachers through EduQuality
Over the next four years, a business case was developed and in 2016, EduFinance used this to begin partnering with financial institutions beyond the existing network, offering technical assistance support when institutions committed to growing and expanding EduFinance portfolios using their own capital.
In early 2016, we launched EduQuality in Ghana and Uganda as a program of Opportunity EduFinance. As a first step, we brought on two local education specialists with expertise working with affordable non-state schools. Coordinating with our financial institution partners in Ghana and Uganda to engage their school borrowers and to better understand their unique priorities.
Findings highlighted the varying backgrounds of school leaders, and that most school leaders worked in isolation without the benefit of a network of peers to find solutions and share best practices. Teachers listed challenges of delayed salary, difficulties with classroom management and many reported minimal educational training.
To address this we designed the EduQuality program around the self-improving school system (SISS) model, inspired by the work of David Hargreaves. Giving schools the guidance to self-organize into formalized 'clusters' created the framework to establish a sustainable model.
After most schools reported that they did not have a strategic approach to implementing priority improvement, the 'Pathways to Excellence' guide was designed to help school leaders diagnose quality and identify and address priority areas for improvement. The EduFinance team has continued to adapt the guide based on school leader and education specialist feedback.
2020 | Scaling EduFinance
Today, the EduFinance footprint has massively grown from its original start in Ghana and scaled across Africa, Latin America and Asia. Our partners span 23 countries and have collectively benefited more than an estimated 6 million children with quality education through lending to school owners, parents, and EduQuality training for school leaders and teachers. We now operate with a team of over 50 staff located across the globe, all working towards our mission to increase access to quality education for millions of children.