Using VSLAs to meet education needs of children
February 3, 2017
Katende Stephen and Daisy Naluwugge are two graduating fellows of the Building Tomorrow Fellows program. While conducting in home visits with parents of children in their assigned schools, it became evident that parents were struggling in providing for the educational needs of their children from lack of funds. Stephen and Daisy decided to study the Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) approach and as a result, launched their own organization called ACT Now Africa.
ACT Now Africa is a social enterprise designed to help parents embrace a culture of saving and prioritizing educational needs, and allows contributors to the VSLA to obtain small educational loans. They also engaged teachers into participating in the VSLAs to help bridge the gap between parents and teachers, believing that if they saved together, it would lead to more interaction and discussion on child education. Even more, they believed the meetings and discussions would serve as a platform to impart skills to parents to enhance earnings in the families.
The ACT Now Africa philosophy is very simple. Parents and teachers are organized into groups of 30 members who meet on a weekly basis, saving between 1–5 USD per member, with an additional 1 USD a week saved to serve as an emergency fund. Each member is able to borrow up to three times the amount saved at a 5% interest rate, as long as three other members second their request. In the space of one year, ACT Now Africa has two groups meeting weekly in the community of Lukindu, comprising 60 members, with a saving portfolio of 5.4 Million shillings (approximately $1,542.00 USD). Intrigued by this innovative approach, the Lwengo District local government has pledged to assist ACT Now Africa to scale up the approach to reach 100 other primary schools.
Importantly, Act Now Africa has influenced change in the lives of members: Allen Najjuuko and Nakanjakko Agnes struggled to meet school fee requirements, so they joined and learned craft making skills. They began to create mats and baskets, and were able to borrow $57.00 USD to inject into the business. Currently, they have saved over $170.00 USD and are able to pay children’s school fees plus are also enjoying a better quality of life. They soon hope to acquire a solar panel and lighting system to enable them to work at night, and for their children to have light to study with.