Schools, parents, and children are not the only ones to benefit from Opportunity International’s education microfinance programmes, new research has confirmed.
Opportunity EduFinance’s investments into affordable schooling also generate jobs, boost local economies, and slow the exodus of a community’s professionals to big cities somewhere else.
“We have always maintained that investment into education is one of the best routes out of poverty,” said Nathan Byrd, who manages Opportunity’s EduFinance programme.
“But the more research we do, the more that we see how wide these benefits truly are,” he said.
Opportunity International’s research in February 2017 found that its EduFinance work with 75 schools in Uganda had created 185 jobs, of which 102 were full time. This means that between 2014 and 2016, the average school improvement loan (SIL) created 2.5 new jobs at the schools, of which 1.4 jobs were permanent.
Among the full time hires, 70 percent were non-teaching staff, such as gatekeepers, drivers for the school vans, plus cooks and matrons too.
The findings match Opportunity’s research in 2016, which found that the average US$10,000 school improvement loan created an average of 3.9 full-time jobs and 7.9 temporary construction jobs at the school itself, plus an estimated 6.79 jobs in the surrounding community.
“Besides boosting quality schooling, education microfinance creates new jobs and stimulates economic growth,“ Byrd said. “And this should come as no surprise, because more students means more demand for school uniforms, food, stationery, and even hair dressing,” he said.
This localised economic growth also encourages educated professionals, including teachers, to stay within their communities. In doing so, it slows the brain drain. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, an estimated one in nine individuals with post-secondary education will move to a developed country outside the African continent.
Opportunity’s 2017 research included nearly 300 interviews with proprietors, parents, and bank staff, in both Uganda and Rwanda. It found that Opportunity EduFinance loans in these two countries help children to access schools, which are closer to home, affordable, safe, and high quality. These school improvement loans also lead to better learning outcomes.
This matches a 2016 evaluation in Uganda, which found that Opportunity-financed schools enjoyed improvements in girls’ literacy that were 61% greater than for the non-Opportunity-financed schools.
Learn more about Opportunity International's Education Programme.