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© 2024 Opportunity International Education Finance functions under its US and UK affiliates. Opportunity International United Kingdom is registered as a charity in England and Wales (1107713) and in Scotland (SCO39692). Opportunity International United Statesis a 501(c)3 nonprofit.

77% of schools who attend EduFinance School Leadership Academies across 10 countries seek school improvement loans as a result

By Maham Khuhro and Catherine O'Shea


As Opportunity EduFinance expands the number of financial institutions and schools it partners with, there has been a continued increase in the frequency of School Leadership Academies (SLA). These SLA workshops serve as a valuable forum where local school leaders can engage directly with financial institutions, enhancing the prospects of establishing loan partnerships to fund school development.

To learn more about the SLA workshops, we spoke with Rachel Tabor, ETAF Associate, and Robinah Zawedde, ETAF Advisor, at Opportunity EduFinance. Robinah has been heading Opportunity EduFinance’s efforts to establish and expand the School Leadership Academy programme.  

Beginning with a pilot in Zambia in late 2021, the workshops have now been introduced in numerous countries including Ghana, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Uganda, Nigeria, Malawi, India, and Guatemala. Additional workshops are planned for the remainder of this year.


Robinah: The aim of the School Leadership Academy is to help school leaders or school owners who have probably never taken a loan but would like to learn about the borrowing process. So, we created a platform for them to interact with our partner financial institutions and get answers to the many questions that have been blocking them from taking a loan. Most school owners have never tried because nobody has told them about the importance of availability and accessibility.

The other group that we focus on is schools that are planning to take a loan but are misinformed about the requirements, or the borrowing experience. The SLA platform also aims to help this group by having financial institutions support them through the process. We also support schools that have applied for a loan earlier but never got approval. We led strategies with the support of financial institutions and a finance team to support such schools to be able to access loans. We would like them not to be rejected again. We also talk about assessing your environment and basic financial management skills. We provide a financial management toolkit that has several templates that they can use to organize themselves so that they are ready when they need a loan.

Rachel: Another objective is for the financial institutions to market the financial products that they offer to serve these schools. We have a panel discussion in the afternoon where schools can ask any questions they have about the loan application process, what products financial institutions have to offer, the terms they charge, and overall get to understand the financial institutions. It's essentially aimed to mobilize these schools to eventually access finance.

We also administer surveys at the beginning and end of the session, which capture the demand for finance in the next six months, as well as basic information about the schools that would then help the financial institutions to come up with this pipeline for financing schools. The whole thing is meant to be a knowledge exchange and to integrate the schools and the financial institutions.



The response from schools that have taken part in the SLA workshops has been overwhelmingly positive. In addition to expressing gratitude towards the EduFinance Technical Assistance Advisors, many school leaders have displayed a heightened interest in obtaining school improvement loans following their workshop participation.

Survey data from 2022 reveals a remarkable 77% surge in schools across participating countries seeking school improvement loans after attending SLA workshops. Consequently, this has led to 373 more schools currently in the process of securing loans.


Robinah: We realized that many school leaders are very confidential when it comes to finance. When they get a loan, they don't share with other proprietors that they were able to improve their school through loans. The SLA workshop creates a friendly environment for school leaders to interact and learn more about finance amongst themselves and how they can support each other.

On the other hand, one of the key challenges that we have found on the ground is that many of the schools do not have basic financial management information. This makes organizing their financials very difficult, leading to difficulties in accessing loans.

This platform bridges the gap between the schools and the financial institutions. During the SLA meeting, school owners have the chance to meet the top management at financial institutions, and vice versa. The financial institutions are able to understand some of the financial challenges that schools are facing, which might influence their future financial products.


Surveys conducted both before and after the implementation of SLA workshops highlighted a significant hurdle faced by school owners in various countries, including Ghana and Zambia.

These surveys revealed that a substantial number of school owners identified their primary obstacle to accessing school improvement loans as the challenge of collecting fees in a timely manner. The insufficient cash flow resulting from this issue severely limits their ability to meet the requirements for obtaining loans.

One of the biggest challenges that school proprietors face is school fee collection. So, school fee loans may be an answer to schools struggling with that.” - Robinah Zawedde

Through the combined efforts of SLA workshops and the comprehensive leadership training provided by the EduQuality program, school owners now receive valuable support in restructuring their fee collection processes. This not only enables them to overcome this critical barrier but also enhances their visibility to financial institutions that can potentially develop specialized financial products to address this specific challenge.

Very insightful session! Going forward, all school fees must go to the bank! I didn't realize that the bank can use my cash flows to determine how much money they give to the school as a loan”. - Mr.Gregory Chegere, Proprietor of Holy Trinity schools, Tanzania


Robinah: The differences normally come in when it comes to registration. There are countries where you will find schools are at least partially registered. But most of the schools are not registered, which makes it difficult to help them.

From the surveys, I've seen the highest demand for a school improvement loan in line with improving infrastructure – this is a very common area of improvement for several schools. But then there are countries, such as Tanzania, where we have seen a special interest in teaching and learning resources.


Survey findings from Tanzania underscore a demand for teaching and learning resources, particularly an increased need for additional computers as the educational landscape continues its shift toward digitalization. Remarkably, in Tanzania alone, 33 schools successfully secured loans following their participation in SLA workshops, while an additional 53 schools are presently in the process of obtaining loans.

Rachel: The challenges probably vary between the countries. I think depending on where you do the SLAs matters; the income of the schools and how those correlates to issues they're facing, such as cash flow issues or school management. 

When asked about the SLA workshops, some school owners recommended extending the duration of the training, and nearly all of them expressed a willingness to recommend the SLA workshop to their peers and colleagues.

Opportunity EduFinance's dedication to empowering school leaders and facilitating connections with financial institutions through School Leadership Academies has opened avenues for sustainable growth. With more workshops planned for the future, the EduFinance team continues to support schools seeking to enhance their infrastructure and provide better opportunities for children in their communities.

Read our previous blog on School Leadership Academies in the Mityana Zone.

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