In July 2008, IDP Foundation President Irene Pritzker traveled to Ghana to look at various microfinance programs. After meeting several loan clients, she was introduced to Paulina, who owned a school in the Agbogbloshie slum market in bustling Accra.
Although Paulina's main business was selling yams, Paulina felt compelled to open a low-fee private school in the market to create a safe learning environment for the children of the traders.
There was clearly demand as her school quickly grew to serve over 400 students. Paulina soon needed to reinforce the second story of her building to safely accommodate her growing student body, so she approached her loan officer for a microloan. Though she had received loans for her yam-selling business, she was unable to secure a loan specifically for her school.
Why is it easier to access credit for a yam-selling business than for improving the educational environment of a school?
Finding the Solution
After conducting extensive market research, it was clear that Paulina’s story was not unique. Paulina’s school represented one of an estimated 6,000 low-fee private schools in Ghana, according to a 2011 report by International Finance Corporation (IFC). Although low-fee private schools are owned by poor proprietors serving low-income communities, government and multi-lateral funding agencies offer little to no support because the schools are privately owned. As a result, the IDP Foundation created the IDP Rising Schools Program to provide essential services to this growing sector.
Partnerships (Add Value)
The IDP Foundation provided initial seed funding for the development and implementation of the pilot stage of the IDP Rising Schools Program. Because of the risk associated with such a novel venture, we decided to provide funding in the form of a grant.
Partnerships (Add Value)
In addition to providing funding, the IDP Foundation co-created - with partner Sinapi Aba - targeted training modules that addressed the unique needs of school proprietors, ranging from creating financial documents (such as cash flow statements and balance sheets) to school management issues (such as engaging parent-teacher associations and working with district officials). In addition to empowering school proprietors with adequate training, we worked with Sesame Workshop to develop teacher training videos, addressing pedagogy and activity-based learning techniques to enhance the quality of teaching in the classrooms.
The IDP Rising Schools Program has demonstrated that with the right training, low-fee private schools can improve their management and efficiently use their newly acquired access to capital. The IDP Rising Schools Program is actively expanding and is poised to reach a total of 580 schools and 150,000 pupils by July 2016. The low-fee private schools participating in the IDP Rising Schools Program are now stabilized.
Given these results and the anticipated reach of the Program, the IDP Foundation is prepared to enter into partnerships to scale the program and introduce quality improvement interventions. We believe with smart philanthropy and strategic support, the low-fee private school sector can complement the public education system to ensure that all children in Ghana are receiving a quality education.