The role MicroLoan plays in tackling the learning crisis

Children in sub-Saharan Africa are still not getting the education they deserve.

More children are in school than ever before. But over 30% are not completing primary school and nearly 60% are not completing secondary school. The majority of those are in sub-Saharan Africa, where education rates are at the lowest globally.

“The children whom society is failing most are the ones who most need a good education to succeed in life.”

– World Development Report, 2018

The recently published World Development Report on education highlighted the challenges facing sub-Saharan Africa. They termed this the learning crisis.

MicroLoan Foundation works with some of the poorest women in the world, supporting them to set up businesses that will enable them to pay for their children to go to school. We work in countries where education rates are still very low, and the learning crisis is at its worst. By supporting women to earn an income and put aside savings for the future, we guarantee that more children will be enrolled in school and more children will be able to complete their education.

Children not attending school

In 2016, 61 million children of primary school age and 202 million of secondary school age were not in school. That equates to over 40% of children in low and lower-middle income countries.

The reason for this is that many poor families cannot afford to pay the fees or buy the necessary books, uniforms or stationary. The reality for families living in extreme poverty is that every day is a struggle to afford food and basic necessities, and so paying for school fees is simply not possible. This also means that children are often inadequately prepared for a day of learning, arriving at school malnourished or unwell. Families are forced to choose between scrimping to get enough money together to pay for the fees despite their child not being able to keep up or the child staying at home and helping contribute to the family income.

Many of the women MicroLoan works with had to drop out of school and they want their business to ensure that their children don’t have to do the same. Through helping them to earn a steady and sustainable income, the pressure on children to contribute to the income is reduced. With MicroLoan’s support, 60% less children now drop out of school to contribute to the household income.

Children not completing school

Poverty is the most accurate predictor of a child failing to complete schooling. Children from richer, urban families are much more likely to complete school than those from poor, rural families.

One of the most important contributing factors to this is periods of absence. While children may be officially enrolled in school, their attendance may be very poor as a result of being unable to pay the fees, having to care for other family members or illness.

The impact this has on their education is obvious:

  • In Malawi over 90% of Grade 2 students (age 7) couldn’t read a single word of a short text. In Zambia it was found to be nearly 60%.
  • More than four-fifths of Malawian students were unable to read even a single familiar word such as ‘the’ or ‘cat’ by the age of eight.
  • Less than 50% of Grade 6 students (age 11) in Southern and East Africa, countries such as Malawi and Zambia, were able to go beyond the level of simply deciphering words, and less than 40% got beyond basic numeracy.

MicroLoan works in poor, rural locations to redress the educational imbalance. We support women to set up businesses that will allow them to provide for their families and prepare for the future. 97% of women reported saving after joining a MicroLoan group, compared to just 11% before. Not only does this help get more children into school by meaning our women can afford the fees, but it helps keep more children in school. Being able to afford good nutrition, healthcare, books, uniforms and school fees, 86% of our clients with school-aged children now report that all their children are in education.

What did the World Education Report conclude?

The study revealed that those who already disadvantaged in society, such as by poverty, gender or location, have consistently lower education rates, including lower enrolment, higher drop-outs and lower completion. Rather than narrowing divisions in society and acting as equality promoting, education systems may then be widening social gaps and further excluding those already marginalised.

MicroLoan Foundation’s mission is to reach and support the most marginalised individuals, giving them the opportunity and the skills to build better lives for themselves and their families. We know that our strategy of working with women helps us reach the most people and one of the key ways is through helping our clients to break the cycle of no or poor education.

MicroLoan is not working on short-term solutions. Children enrolling for school is a start but we support women to be able to continue to pay school fees and afford the books and uniforms their children need so that they can have the best education. We help our women to set up sustainable businesses that will provide for their families, meaning their children can be well fed, grow up in a safe home, and have access to vital healthcare. Our work helps get children into schools, and helps them to be able to attend regularly and receive a good education.

“Given that today’s students will be tomorrow’s citizens, leaders, workers, and parents, a good education is an investment with enduring benefits”

– World Development Report, 2018

What can you do to help?

“Women reinvest 90% of every dollar earned into their families’ education, health and nutrition.”

– Harvard Business Review, 2013

There are millions of children who still need our help to be able to go to school and get a good education. Through investing in a woman, her children can go to school and look forward to a brighter future. Help us break the cycle of poverty and buy a Giving Gift today.

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See the full report here