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Innovative Financial Management Transforms School’s Sustainability in northern Ghana

By Jason Amoo

In 2019, Daari Hawawu started Daari-Deara School in the Wa West District of the Upper West region in Ghana, with a noble mission to empower local children because she noticed many children of school-going age were not in school.  However, financial struggles threatened the school’s existence until she partnered with the USAID-funded Advancing Partnerships for Improved Learning.  

The school started with 7 children under a mango tree near Daari’s house, and she struggled with getting their parents to buy into her idea. Over time, Daari’s vision became clear and local parents saw the educational opportunity she offered. Currently, the school has grown to 74 learners from kindergarten to Primary 5 with a teaching staff of four. Despite offering what most would consider very low fees at just GHC 150 per term – less than US$11 with three terms per academic year - most parents struggle to pay these fees for their children.

As the founder and current school owner, Daari reminisced, "Initially, our finances were precarious. Despite our efforts, only a handful of parents could afford tuition, leaving me to rely on personal funds to sustain operations. We had about 15 paying the bare minimum."

Changing approaches to school financial management

In October 2023, Daari joined the USAID-funded Advancing Partnerships for Improved Learning Activity and began to benefit from various training workshops on financial literacy, school management and improvement with the intervention of Opportunity International. Through a financial management workshop led by Opportunity’s EduFinance Technical Advisors, Daari learned about new innovative strategies she could use to optimize revenue streams. Inspired, she decided to implement monthly fee installments for parents, breaking down costs into manageable segments.

"The results were astounding," Daari exclaimed. "In just the first month, we raised almost half of our usual revenue. We even allowed some parents to pay weekly." Parents embraced the new payment system, ensuring timely fee submissions and easing financial strain on the school.

As several months have passed, the approach has proved efficient, enabling the school to meet expenses, including teacher salaries and infrastructure investments. "We even have a savings plan now," Daari revealed proudly.

CAPTION: Daari and other school leaders during a School Leadership Professional Development workshop.

It's transformed our school's prospects," she affirmed. "With dedication and innovation, any challenge can be overcome. Starting a school meant a lot to me because my own siblings' children were in the village and were poorly educated. I started the school so we can have well-molded, mannered future leaders that can fight for their rights, and corruption and break the cycle of poverty that is endemic in the community."

School Leadership Academy potential 

Today, the Daari-Deara School stands as a testament to the power of community-driven solutions and resilience in the face of adversity. With access to School Leadership Academy (SLA) training tailored for low-fee private schools in northern Ghana just like Daari-Deara, this already ambitious school owner was able to apply new strategies to problem solve her school’s financial challenges, better ensuring the school will remain open for its learners.

The primary objective of the SLA is to equip school owners with essential skills and knowledge on school financial management and effective leadership techniques. The curriculum covers a range of topics including budgeting, resource allocation, cash flow management, and the utilization of the School Capacity Building Fund – an initiative of the Activity - to enhance school financial sustainability and quality.

The SLA workshops also facilitate meaningful interactions between school owners and Activity partner financial institutions, including Opportunity International Savings and Loans, VisionFund Microfinance, Bessfa Rural Bank, Tizaa Rural Bank, Toende Rural Bank, Sissala Rural Bank, and Fidelity Bank. Participants engage with representatives from these institutions to gain insights into account opening procedures, loan application processes, disbursement, repayment, and monitoring mechanisms, with the overarching goal of making low-fee private schools more bankable and able to access loans to invest in their schools.

The positive feedback on the School Leadership Academy to date underscores the importance of collaboration in enhancing the capacity and resilience of schools, particularly in underserved regions. By equipping school owners with critical tools and knowledge on how to financially manage and invest in a sustainable school, and breaking down barriers to financial institutions, initiatives like the SLA play a pivotal role in further empowering education entrepreneurs working to offer their communities more quality education access.

I now have a direction, school development plan, financial knowledge, and enlightenment on the kind of business I have chosen from the training that I received so far. I expect the Activity to guide, direct, and help upgrade the school to an international standard.”


Advancing Partnerships for Improved Learning is a U.S. Government project in partnership with the Ministry of Education to enable proprietors, teachers, communities, financial organizations, professional networks, and the Government of Ghana (GoG) to improve student learning outcomes and financing options for low-fee schools over five years in the Northern, North East, Upper East and Upper West Regions of Ghana. The Activity is implemented by Opportunity International in collaboration with a consortium including The Ghana National Association of Private Schools (GNAPS), Ghana National Council of Private Schools (GNACOPS), University of Development Studies (UDS), FHI360 and Results for Development (R4D).


Read more about School Leadership Academy workshops held in Western Kenya here!

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