Here in Uganda when a new school session begins financial hardships begin. Public school is not 100% free, families must pay fees for each child as they are registered. Here fees increase as the children grow older with primary fees being less than secondary, secondary less than senior, and senior and university fees being much higher. So as the child grows the session fees increase. We find many children can not progress past primary due to the enormous expense. When surveyed our women borrowers always testify that meeting school fees is a top priority.
The financial stress of meeting these school fees not only affect the family’s budget, but also the day-to-day businesses in every sector of the marketplace. As families struggle to meet the cost of school fees they are forced to cut back on their purchases of food and other necessities. The local markets and shops are void of buyers and revenues drop dramatically. Businesses will now suffer for an entire month as families recuperate from the added burden of the school fee payments. The Ugandan school session is just beginning now and as we visited our borrowers in Gulu, borrower after borrower shared the same report: “business is fair, times are hard during school registration.” If fees cannot be met the children are sent home and not allowed to attend.
One of the many benefits of The Greater Contribution’s Micro Loan program is the training we provide. The trainings concentrate on the importance of savings and record keeping. We promote and encourage savings at every repayment meeting so that the women can better plan for their future and expenses. TGC’s goal is to teach our borrowers to manage their profits thereby allowing them to be able to pay their school fees while they continue to afford nutrition for their families. For many of our women the act of savings is new, and we have heard repeatedly from them how thankful they are for this new skill set!