Many who join us on an Edify field experience ask us:
“Why would those in poverty pay for school vs. attending a free public school?”
It is a great question and one that I also asked during my first encounter with low-fee private schools.
In 2014, Endeva, an International Development organization out of Berlin, Germany that specializes in enterprise solutions for development published a white paper entitled, “Private Schools for the Poor: Educating Millions in the Developing World.” The authors offer a compelling and comprehensive report of these low-fee independent schools and their potential solution to the education crisis facing millions of children throughout the developing world. Endeva highlights the top three reasons why parents are willing to pay in the section entitled, “AAA rated schools – Accessible, Affordable, Accountable.”
I just returned from Ethiopia where we recently launched Edify operations among an amazing network of low-fee, Christ-centered private schools. I was inspired by the way these schools were springing up within the communities the students lived, especially in the rural areas, making it easier to commute to and from school instead of having to embark on the long and often dangerous commute to the nearest public school.
#2 – Affordable
The independent schools Edify works with across eight developing countries in Africa and Latin America charge between $5-$30 (US)/month in school fees. While public schools may seem like a cheaper alternative at first glance, the paper highlights that there are often hidden costs in the public schools such as “exam fees, textbooks and uniforms” which makes the difference in cost between independent and public schools marginal. At Edify partner schools, when paying the school fees seems impossible for some families or orphaned children, the school owners will often offer scholarships.
#3 – Accountable
The paper points to two main issues in public schools: “overcrowded and chronic teacher absenteeism” which have driven parents to action. If a private school fails to perform, the parent can vote with their feet by taking the child out of school and look for other options. The public schools lack this accountability. As we talk with parents of children attending our partnering schools, we have found that the ability to hold their child’s school accountable for the education they are providing gives the parents a real sense of empowerment and dignity.
As Endeva concludes the paper, they give a call to action by stating, “Low-cost private schools are already providing millions of underprivileged children with accessible, affordable and accountable schooling. However, they would benefit from an ecosystem of partners supporting their development.”
Edify launched in 2009, making our first loan in 2010. Over the last five years we have worked with 1,733 schools and have impacted 392,451 children.
Click here to learn more about how Edify is coming alongside these education entrepreneurs (“Edupreneurs”) and participating in this growing “ecosystem.”
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Director of Edification and Philanthropy