Over the past few years, Opportunity EduFinance has increasingly been using School Leadership Academies as a way to connect local financial institutions directly with schools that could benefit from EduFinance lending.
A School Leadership Academy is a day where local school leaders and other key stakeholders are invited to meet with one or more financial institutions. Opportunity EduFinance supports the financial institutions to present on school improvement loans and cover a range of topics such as loan criteria, repayments, borrowing to increase the school’s capacity, better budgeting and financial management, and engaging in additional income generating activities. The day is a chance for the school leader to speak directly with loan officers and ask any questions they have.
Opportunity EduFinance has recently led successful School Leadership Academies in Ghana, India, and most recently in the Mityana Zone of Central Uganda which we will explore as a case study in this blog.
The Mityana Zone, Uganda
As part of the EduFinance Technical Assistance Facility initiative to drive capital further down the market in the Mityana Zone (which includes 8 districts), Opportunity EduFinance, with the support of the local government District Education Officers, ran School Leadership Academy workshops across four districts in Sembabule, Bukomansimbi, Lwengo and Masaka in the Central-1 area of Uganda. These workshops took place between the 7th-17th March 2023.
Quality Education is a stone of life, no matter how far it is thrown, it will shine ahead of its holder. The Mityana Zone is a region that is not so much appreciated by financial institutions due to the quality of private schools there.
The School Leadership Academy through training supports the low-fee schools in building their capacity to borrow, creating a very close relationship for partner financial institutions to understand the schools and walk the success journey with them.”
- Robinah Zawedde, Technical Assistance Advisor for Opportunity EduFinance
The workshop facilitators invited proprietors of low-fee private schools to attend a one-day training aimed to equip the leaders with the tools to invest in improving the quality and capacity of their schools. This included training on financial management, improving the school environment as well as sensitization on the role, benefits of, and how to access school improvement loans.
- 79% of the schools in attendance charge fees estimated to be affordable to parents living on the $3.20 per capita poverty line (<UGX 95,700 or $25 a term)
- 69% had never borrowed for their school before
- Post-workshop, 83% have plans to borrow in the next 6 months
260 school leaders attended one of four one-day Workshops. There were a further 90 attendees including EduFinance Technical Assistance facilitators, and representatives from our partner financial institutions: OBUL, Letshego, and Ugafode who have all committed to this project to drive more capital down the market in the Mityana Zone, Uganda. As well as District Government Education Office representatives who gave their full backing and support in running the events.
These schools face particular challenges as many of them are unregistered and also struggle to put up the collateral needed, such as land or buildings, in order to secure a loan.
I can now think about getting a loan as a way of improving my school not as a burden that will destroy "
- A school proprietor in Lwengo
Agenda of the day
As the majority who attended were from very low-fee schools, these workshops focused especially on training as this is what the school leaders will need in order to access finance in the future. Alongside training, the workshops also involved lively panel discussions with local financial institution representatives offering school improvement loans whereby schools could ask questions and hear guidance directly from them on the products offered and the application process.
At the start of these sessions, Robinah Zawedde, Technical Assistance Advisor, led interactive warm-ups and asked school leaders to stand up and say: ‘I am an educator; I change the world. I am a teacher; I change the world.’ This approach and these group activities encouraged them to be actively involved and vocal throughout the day.
I think [the workshops have] created an opportunity for people to understand what the real truth is regarding finances and the role that banks can play, should play and are happy to play in supporting school owners to run their businesses. I really think it was quite a revelation for many of the school owners because a number of things they were worried about were from a position of stereotyping which they overheard from somebody else.”
- Julius Omoding, Senior Technical Assistance Advisor and Regional Director for Africa
School Leader Surveys
Two surveys were administered at the beginning and end of the workshop to each school in attendance. These surveys asked school leaders for information about their current financial situation and future plans based on EduFinance lending.
Rachel Tabor, Technical Assistance Associate was part of the delivery team. Reflecting on the workshops she commented that:
“The workshops also stood as an opportunity to better understand the profiles, demand for finance, and challenges faced by low-cost private schools in the project zone. This information is now helping the Technical Assistance team to inform the strategy for future interventions to support low-fee schools and low-income parents to access education finance in the Mityana Zone.”
Here are summaries of some of the key learnings from these surveys and the workshops:
Level of Education Offered
School leaders were asked to respond on a range of topics connected to what their school currently offers:
- Schools in attendance had an average of 262 learners enrolled
- There were no standalone pre-primary schools as all schools offering pre-primary also offered primary
- 131 standalone primary schools with an average of 290 learners enrolled
- 22 standalone secondary schools with an average of 180 learners enrolled
- 24:1 was the average learner-to-teacher ratio
Current Financial Management and Savings
School leaders were asked to explain how they currently record finances and manage their school's savings:
- Only 10% of schools in attendance record finances digitally
- 9.5% of schools listed lack of clear/audited accounts as a key challenge to accessing finance (16 schools)
- The majority of schools (127, 62%) collect school fees via cash only
- Only 26% also accept mobile money and 13% direct bank deposit
- Use of digital SchoolPay software is rare with only 15 schools reporting using this service for fee collection
- 65% of schools said they were saving for school improvement projects
Keywords listed as planned use of savings for school improvement project:
"One thing that really stuck with me is that the vast majority of School Leaders in Uganda, particularly in rural areas such as the Mityana Zone, do not go into the business of owning schools as an entrepreneurial venture but rather because of their true passion for educating the youth in their communities. For this reason, many private schools are struggling to break even and often running in less than ideal conditions. The School Leadership Academy workshops, through training and sensitization to finance, equip school leaders with the skills and tools to improve the financial sustainability and quality of their schools so that they can continue providing quality education to the thousands of children who need it.”
- Rachel Tabor, Technical Assistance Associate
Purpose of Loans
183 of the schools who attended said they were intending to borrow in the next six months and 215 said they were happy to be contacted in the future by financial institutions about EduFinance lending. School leaders gave a range of reasons for borrowing with new classroom construction being the most popular, followed by school furniture and desks and dormitory construction.
“One of the greatest impacts was that schools now know that they can approach banks and that banks are willing to support them and that they have a joint role to play. Schools felt like they needed to beg financial institutions for support but now we see the financial institutions offering support and the schools now have to play a role in providing the right documents to support their cases. I was really happy that the information barrier was broken; stereotypes were broken and now it's an open playing field for everybody to really take advantage of the opportunities that have been made available.”
- Julius Omoding, Senior Technical Assistance Advisor and Regional Director for Africa
The team is currently looking at a range of potential further interventions to continue supporting the 260 schools that attended these one-day workshops. This includes ideas such as further training to sensitize school leaders to finance and to explain the loan application process, to offer loan application clinics, further training to school leaders on financial management, bookkeeping, and increasing the financial sustainability of a school.
After the initial success of these four day-long workshops, the EduFinance Technical Assistance team will continue to run further School Leadership Academies in the Mityana region, starting with further workshops in June 2023.
Read about last year’s School Leadership Roadshows in Ghana.