One of the key differences that we see with the affordable private schools (APS) and the government schools where the children of really poor people go is that there is often an emphasis on the extra curricular activities in the APS. The unanimous answer to why this does not happen with the government schools, is that the parents cannot afford the money for the items required in these activities.
It set us thinking on whether we can change this. Taking the inspiration from economics and the notion of Microsavings and the ways of working in Microfinance, we started to think on the way savings can be done specifically for education.
We decided to challenge ourselves to see how this can be addressed. We asked ourselves whether a simple thing as a piggybank be redesigned to help saving for the education of the child.
We are working on a system that tries to address this. Intern Jean is working on this goal. He shares his insights on this.
We are currently developing a microsavings-inspired system using a piggybank-like product helping parents to save money for their child’s education. The saved money would be used only when a certain amount is reached, so that parents could buy or exchange for class material.
Here is why we are focusing on this: in rural areas, parents earn very less money, which is certainly not enough to allow extra expenditures. Their earnings are based on what they do, and not going to work means having less money to buy food. There’s no help of any kind, no unemployment assistance, no health insurance, no retirement plan. During our visit to these areas we observe that most of the households have a jar hidden somewhere, which is used to store a few coins for rainy days. The parents would not use this hard earned money for education. Plus, it is so easy for the father (usually the head of the family) to take this money and spend it. This is why we came with the idea of a community-based saving system (inspired from the group loan repayment of microfinance systems), using a product or a tool specifically implemented for the education purpose.
These two aspects work together to facilitate the saving process: having it community-based make the parents feel less lonely and provide them a strong support in case of a motivation drop; also, by differentiating the education piggybank and the classic one we ensure that the money will effectively be used for improving education.
In a more concrete way, each participating family will be provided with a piggybank. They are supposed to save a Rs 5 coin per day, which is small enough not to disturb their lifestyle but big enough to buy class material if repeated everyday and collected at the end of the month. To make it community-integrated as well as to ensure that the father will not steal from it, the piggybanks will move from a family to another every day or every week.
This is how it would function: family A saves money and then gives the piggybank A to family B who ensures that there is the right amount of money inside. Family B saves money in piggybank B and then gives it to family C, and so on… In such a system, the transfer is feasible if and only if every family participates, so if one is encountering any problem others would have to take care of it in order to move on. When the family gets its own piggybank back -maybe after a few turns- it is time to empty it and spend the saved money.
Families would then come to the project manager or the champions; who would exchange it with new class materials that would help with the education activities. The piggybank itself will be a affordable, sustainable product allowing a constant feedback of the saved amount, so that it is easy for the families to check. The whole system, is based on trust: we believe in the power of the village’s community. If a father decides to take the money from a piggybank, he will have to face a collective anger.
Last but not least, the outside of the product will be left blank for children to decorate it: it will allow them to personalize their piggybank, recognize it when it comes back home, and encourage them to invest the collected money into their own education.
For the success of the pilot project due to be launched in April this year, we considered some hypothesis:
1. We will choose families sensitive to education and aware of its importance, thinking that the father would be less likely to take the money for own usage.
2. We considered that they have a regular income, which is almost mandatory to be able to save little money everyday.
3. Finally, we need the child to come to school everyday, to use the class material his parents would buy him.
Right now, the development of the product is still in process. As soon as it is finished we will start communicating around the whole project, aiming to promote it as well as the methodology for social impact we built in the meantime. We will be then back in Bihar, testing the whole system in April.