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Meet a Low-Fee Private School Proprietor: Magdalene Sackey

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July 2014
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Across Africa, people face the challenge of securing land tenure. Ghana is just one example of a country where land rights are governed by legal pluralism, whereby customary, statutory and religious laws overlap in governing a single territory. This means that a territory may be considered customary land where Chiefs or other traditional authorities govern land rights, but they are still held accountable to constitutional and judicial law. In Ghana, there are 23 interconnected informal and formal institutions that constitute the maze of land administration in Ghana. Moreover, with 80% of land being customary in Ghana, challenges are heightened for women, who oftentimes are not allowed to possess customary land titles.[1]

With such a complex system, land disputes are all too common, a clear issue when considering smallholder farmers. As this Devex blog highlights, “Whether offered through a formal, state-managed tenure system or a customary system, farmers must be confident in their rights to access, use, and reap benefits from their land. When smallholder farmers believe that their rights will be recognized and enforced, they can and often do make important investments.”[2]

However, this issue affects other sectors as well, such as the low-cost private school sector. Just as a farmer may be unwilling to invest in unsecure land, a school owner may be hesitant to invest in the school’s infrastructure. This is why the Rising Schools Program offers Asset Acquisition loans that can be used to purchase land.

Meet Magdalene Sackey, the owner of Phiga School, which was established in 2004 in the Kaneshie community that resides just north of downtown Accra. Magdalene joined the IDP Rising Schools Program in November 2013 and completed her training in school management and financial literacy in January 2014. Magdalene was not only taught by experienced loan officers, but also through the experience-sharing of other school owners. She says that, “from the stories shared during the training program, I learned that I can make it.”

From the stories shared during the training program, I learned that I can make it.
Magdalene Sackey

In March 2014, Magdalene took a loan from Sinapi Aba, the implementing partner of the Rising Schools Program. With her loan of 40,000 Ghanaian Cedis, Magdalene was able to purchase land which would enable her to construct a school structure, and move Phiga School from the rented house where it currently operates. The purchase of land will not only provide greater stability and infrastructure for her 295 pupils, but also the reassurance to continue investing in Phiga School to make it the best environment possible for the children she so cares for.

In addition to the impact of the loan on Magdalene’s school, she has also experienced dramatic improvements in her school, due to the Rising Schools Program training. Magdalene reports that her “confidence has skyrocketed.” By learning how to effectively manage her school finances, she has been able save enough to purchase a school bus. Moreover school fees and salaries for her 17 female and 5 male teachers are being paid on time. Implementing new management techniques has led to improved commitment on the part of teachers, and greater support from parents and the surrounding community who are now proud to be part of Phiga School’s success story. Magdalene says she “will not stop learning and [will] also refrain from complacency.” She plans to continue seeking support from her peers and the team at Sinapi Aba when confronting any challenges, to ensure Phiga School’s continued development.

· 1 Spichiger, Rachel; Stacey, Paul. “Ghana’s Land Reform and Gender Equality: DISS Working Paper 2014:01.” Danish Institute for International Studies
· 2 Kline, Nate. “Land tenure – a priority for a food-secure future.” Devex.

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