How IDP Foundation COVID-19 Relief Program Is Supporting Vulnerable Low Fee Private Schools in Ghana To Remain Open During These Difficult times
Urgent relief grants have been disbursed to the most vulnerable schools in our IDP Rising Schools Program in Ghana. The school proprietors from our program are passionate education entrepreneurs who have devoted their time and resources to serving their communities. When their schools were forced to close for 10 months due to COVID-19, it was a significant blow. From loss of revenue and teachers to material disrepair, the damage of the pandemic has been extensive. Without external support, many of these schools risked permanent closure or trying to operate without sufficient resources. Given the significant role these schools play in educating Ghana, the reality of closures could create unmanageable pressure on public schools and have dire consequences on overall school enrolment and education access.
Our local financial partner in the Rising Schools Program, Sinapi Aba Savings and Loans, ranked the vulnerability of schools based on the following set of key indicators:
· Ability to reopen
· School fee amounts
· Canteen fees amounts
· Level of enrolment
· Number of teachers
· State of infrastructure
Additional information was provided directly by proprietors through an application process. We also commissioned a pre-reopening assessment, conducted by Associate for Change, a Ghanaian research firm. The combination of these data sources enabled us to understand the immediate needs of the schools.
Our COVID-19 Relief Support was designed with multiple levels. The first pays off all interest accrued on proprietors’ loans during the 10-month school closures, when repayments had been put on hold. All schools with active loans benefitted from this relief. While this accrual of interest is standard practice when loans are rescheduled it would have placed a significant additional financial burden on top of the proprietors’ regular loan repayments which started one month after reopening. Given the precarious financial situation all of our schools are currently in, this higher payback rate could have been devastating.
The next level provided additional financial relief grants to schools assessed as the most vulnerable and at risk of not reopening. 107 schools have benefited from this assistance to help address critical needs such as payment of teachers’ salaries, renovation of classrooms and purchasing of personal protective equipment.
During a recent monitoring visit, we were able to speak to some of the targeted schools about the impact these grants have had on their operations.
For Madam Ruby Coffie, proprietor of 3G’s Royal International School, Tuba- Kasoa, managing the school after a long period of closure has been particularly difficult. Enrolment in her school has significantly reduced and the majority of the teachers did not return due to her inability to pay them during the school closure. Parents have also been very slow to resume fee payments, resulting in a lack of operating capital and preventing recruitment of new teachers.
“….I don’t know what would have happened if you hadn’t come in. The money was used to pay salaries of teachers and to purchase PPEs, hand washing materials and teaching aid”Madam Ruby Coffie stated.
A similar sentiment was shared by Mr. James Bonney, founder of New Hope of Glory Academy, Shiabu-Accra, who told us the grant was the first financial relief he has received in his 25 years of operating the school. After he failed to access the Government COVID-19 credit facility to private schools, Mr. Bonney said he was not sure of how he was going to run the school after reopening.
“Had it not been for the grant support, I would not have had teachers in the school at the moment. Which means there will be no school. I used the money to pay teachers’ salaries”
The experiences of these proprietors and several others highlight the critical needs of independent low fee private schools in this new era of pandemics. Our COVID-19 relief support continues to assess the vulnerabilities of the schools in our program. We are currently assessing which factors are most critical for building resilience to future closures or interruptions due to pandemics. The IDP Foundation team is ramping up our field monitoring and AfC are conducting a post opening assessment so we can continue to be agile in our support for these essential schools.
See the relief program in numbers here.