Efforts in early childhood education have been found to be among of some of the greatest return on investment in human capital activities. Every dollar invested into early childhood education has a significantly higher potential of minimizing the achievement gap, improving health and increasing lifetime earnings, compared to investments later in the scholastic journey.[i] Each additional year of school can add up to 12% to a woman’s income and 10% to a man’s,[ii] early childhood education plays a foundational role in setting up children for future success (the below graph shows how investments affect each level of the scholastic journey). OI EduFinance not only believes in this, we equip ourselves with this information to continuously create opportunities for millions of children worldwide.
We give parents and teachers access to financial services so they can afford tuition and improve schools, so children can receive a high-quality education and break their way out of poverty. We are trusted advisors, and we walk together with inspiring clients like Grace, to deliver on this mission. This is Grace’s story.
Grace could not have been named anything else. Because it is with grace that she moves through life, making a difference in the communities and people around her. Her story as a school owner formally began 17 years ago when she decided to rent a big house with a large garden to accommodate the children of her growing day-care center. But her trajectory to community activist, educator and Opportunity International loan client started many years before.
A native of Bogota, Colombia, Grace remembers wanting to become a teacher when she was as young as the students she teaches today. As a child in school she was accustomed to knocks on the door from classmates who didn’t understand a math problem or needed help with their homework. Grace became a peer tutor throughout her primary education and when high school graduation came around she was certain she wanted to pursue a degree in education. Although Latin American university enrollment numbers have doubled in the last decade, a lack of financing options, high costs and issues with quality result is low graduation numbers.[iii] Like many Colombians, paying out of pocket for a private bachelor’s program was out of the question for Grace, but through dedication she was able to apply for and receive scholarships, making her dream of continuing her education a reality.
It was during her time at university that her future as a school manager started to take real shape – not only in the classroom but in the living room of her own home. Neighbors, noticing Grace was home during the day studying, started paying her to watch their young children while they were at work. In Colombia, 90% of children are only enrolled in school between the ages of seven and thirteen. Despite enrollment in early childhood education nearly doubling in the last ten years, there is still a major gap in terms of availability of quality education for children aged 0-6.[iv]
Understanding the very real needs and child care challenges faced by members of her community, Grace put her university education to the test – spending her days both studying and running an impromptu daycare center out of her home. The days were not without struggle, she owes her focus and resilience to a simple and inspiring motto, “where there is a will there is a way, so plan your work and work out your plan.” Grace’s daily mantra coupled with support from her husband Juan, kept her committed to providing quality care and education to the children in her community.
In 2000, Grace looked around and realized she had more students than space. Motivated by the 35 infants and toddlers under her care, Grace decided to rent a larger home to house what she and Juan now called - Jesus’ Little Kids school. Still space constrained three years later, Grace found an even larger home for sale. It was only then, in 2003, that Opportunity International joined Grace on her mission to increase access and quality of education for young children in Bogota. With an OI loan Grace and Juan bought a new house, ultimately creating more seats for students in the community.
Over the following six years, Grace, Juan and Jesus’ Little Kids school served 70 children from the Bogota community. Although today Grace runs only one unit of the school, she firmly believes “education is key to raising children with values.” It has been her mission to uplift her community through job creation and access to education, and it has been OI mission to support her – because we are in the business of creating opportunity—both for people to work their way out of poverty and those who are passionate about making that happen.