July 28, 2007
Opportunity International. a leading innovator in the microfinance industry, has announced that it is expanding its microfinance school loans program to bring greater educational opportunity to poor children, especially girls, in the developing world.
The new initiative, Microschools of Opportunity, will provide loans to "edupreneurs" who open schools in poor areas where children cannot access public schools. The program, which is being piloted in Ghana, incorporates what the organization has learned from previous efforts to provide loans to education entrepreneurs. "Our initial goal is to expand the pilot into several other countries in Africa and Asia," said Opportunity International president Christopher Crane. "Schoolchildren will be able to attend good quality schools operated by edupreneurs, many of whom are women and are experienced, qualified teachers. We expect that, over the next three years, we will help our clients educate
one million poor children."
A three-year study by James Tooley, an expert on schools for the poor, has shown that microschools outperform their public school counterparts across Africa, India, and China. Among other things, the study found lower rates of teacher absenteeism in the microschools and higher rates of teacher commitment, the proportion of teachers actually teaching when researchers called unannounced.
"The poor have found remarkably innovative ways of helping themselves, educationally, and in some of the most destitute places on earth have managed to nurture a large and growing schools industry," said Tooley. "I am thrilled that Opportunity International is expanding schools for the poor. I have seen the benefit that these schools bring to an entire community — the parents, the families, and especially the children who are getting quality education from teachers who are dedicated and committed."
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