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Opportunity EduFinance
Level 18, 100 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 1GT

Telephone: +44 (0) 7768599834

© 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.

Staff Spotlight: Lucy Kabalisa

By Opportunity International

With over two decades of banking experience, Lucy Kabalisa understands the power of finance. As EduFinance's Technical Assistance Advisor, Zambia, she brings that expertise directly to low-cost private schools – using data analysis, performance monitoring, and reporting to help school leaders access the resources needed to serve even more children.

But Lucy believes the essence of this work goes beyond just numbers and balance sheets — it's about transforming lives and unlocking potential. To her, business and finance are simply means to help people rise from humble beginnings and grow into community leaders.

More than anything, I'm a performance coach,” Lucy said. “I delight in providing personalized support to the schools that prepare Zambia’s children to become future leaders.”

Financial institutions have historically been risk-averse, making it difficult to lend to low-cost private schools around the globe. Small schools have relatively low margins and are often launched by individuals who are more attuned to growing minds than bank accounts. But to succeed, these low-cost private school owners must be more than educators – they also need to be marketers, business developers, and entrepreneurs.

Lucy’s job is to develop the systems that help these educators achieve success in these areas. She supports schools by conducting market research, developing systems to monitor performance, and analyzing data. In the end, she helps build credibility with potential funders and financial institutions, giving teachers and school owners the capacity and freedom to do what they do best: educate.

“I think like a banker – and bankers need data to make decisions. I am the translator between schools and banks, organizing the data that financial institutions need to make an informed decision to join us in the mission to support the children of their community.”

Lucy’s ability to translate that hard work into impact is integral to building support, and has compounded investments dramatically over the years. Just one good lesson – one good plan – has the ability to impact not just a community, but the entire country.

“At the onset of my work here in Zambia, I brought leaders from a bank to one of my school leadership workshops, where they saw how we could help school owners become true entrepreneurs. That bank invested in 8 additional districts across Zambia.”

That success has compounded over the years, building a pipeline of schools, financial institutions, and students. Financial institutions are beginning to see private education differently, and banks across Zambia are demonstrating a renewed dedication to children by investing in these educational opportunities.  

With that renewed dedication from the financial sector, Lucy sees a pathway to ending extreme poverty in Zambia and across Africa. Through training and support, Lucy and the EduFinance team are helping unlock potential, educate young people, and break the cycle of generational poverty—for good.

“I find real success is measured by a shift in mindsets. A loan for a parent to send their child to school can change the trajectory of that child. A loan that helps a school expand or excel can transform the trajectory of an entire community. We need financial institutions to believe in this transformation, and we won’t stop until every child has access to quality education.”

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Q&A

POSITION TITLE:

Technical Assistance Advisor – Education Finance

WHERE DO YOU LIVE?

I live in Lusaka, Zambia, although I am Ugandan.

HOW MANY YEARS HAVE YOU BEEN WITH OPPORTUNITY?

Six years.

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO DAY-TO-DAY:

In my current role, I work in two categories: business development and technical assistance.

From a technical assistance perspective, I conduct research and develop new strategies for growth. I have a pipeline of active school owners, and I help them better understand opportunities for success. Together, we build systems to address opportunities from any number of perspectives – this involves a lot of tracking, monitoring, and data analysis. These numbers also help us build credibility with potential funders and financial institutions.

That leads to the second part of my work – business development. Data helps us develop strategies to help them grow from one level to the next. A lot of that involves learning how to best engage with stakeholders and potential customers. We help develop financial proposals to banks, build marketing strategies to reach out to potential families and students…whatever they need to grow.

WHY IS THIS WORK IMPORTANT TO YOU?

I started with Opportunity Bank in Uganda and have been with them since 2017. As a banker with over 20 years of experience, I'm passionate about transforming lives. Working with clients who started as illiterate or without a roof over their heads, then watching them grow into community leaders—it inspires me to go the extra mile.

WHAT DOES SUCCESS LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?

For me, success is measured by a shift in mindsets. We are in the business of breaking down economic barriers between our customers and the banks. A loan for a parent to send their child school can change the trajectory of that child. A loan that helps a school expand or excel can transform the trajectory of an entire community. We need financial institutions to believe in this transformation.

Banks have historically been risk-averse to these low-cost private schools, perceiving a lack of collateral, proper record-keeping, or succession and business plans. They also lack data emphasizing the importance and impact of the sector. We find that data and – and give those schools the capacity to find that data themselves – through our EduQuality program.

I once showed a financial institution the impact we had on a school system in just three months, where we were able to increase school attendance dramatically. They were astonished at the interest and success we garnered from schools, and it led to the financial institution investming across four different provinces in Zambia.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE OPPORTUNITY MEMORY OR EXPERIENCE?

I'm a builder. I love building products, schools, and especially teams. We can only make an impact through people. I recall developing a branch at Opportunity Bank in Uganda, fostering connections between credit officers and the bank manager with our clients. Nurturing teammates, showing them their potential to change lives. It was a very successful project, attracting even larger institutions and resources to serve thousands of our clients – most of them experiencing extreme poverty.

WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT IN YOUR CURRENT POSITION?

I'm most excited about the mindset change we've driven in Zambia. People are seeing private education differently, and a renewed dedication to the Zambian child in the financial sector is emerging. We are changing minds and unlocking potential, starting with the banks and bankers, but ultimately affecting the minds and potential for countless students across the country.

WHAT KEEPS YOU GOING WHEN TIMES ARE TOUGH?

I'm truly dedicated to our mission on the Education Finance team. I’m passionate about transforming the lives of our clients and children. Increasing access to education and, more importantly, dignity drives me, along with my faith. Even when times are tough, I find strength in our team here in Zambia and our supporters around the Opportunity network across the globe. I am thankful to God for His grace throughout this journey. Our work to bring access to education for those at the bottom of the economic pyramid has been an immense undertaking, and I know we have much more to achieve.

 Read our recent profile on a female school leader and entrepreneur in Zambia here.

 

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