by Grace Nattoolo , Kiva Coordinator at Pearl Microfinance in Uganda

I know and believe so, that many have been wondering about Grace, and her blog postings. Yes, I have taken some months without blogging but good enough, the interesting stories about the clients’ businesses and social lives still appear on the website for you to read and fund if possible.

Once again, I would like to commend all the fans of Kiva for the wonderful job of supporting and in turn spreading the word.

During my previous visits to the women and men in their lending groups at the various branches of Pearl Microfinance, I realized that many borrowers take loans to cater for their children’s school fees and upkeep. Surely everyone would love to see their children and those that they care for have the best of education and when you go deep into this issue, it’s interesting.

Although this is the case for parents towards their children, some of the borrowers have not attended formal education but are taking the initiative to learn how to write their names and sign alongside them.

Okay, here is what happens:

Whenever a loan is raised on the website, it is expected to disburse and this is the time that the borrowers meet again in their respective groups for each one of them to receive and sign for their loans. To me, considering the long distances these women and men have to trek to get this money, I would consider this a burden but to some of them, it is nothing compared to when they are to be told by the Credit Officers to put a signature on a piece of paper called a “Loan Contract Form” or “Loan Application Form” alongside their names to acknowledge receipt of money.

Below is to explain it further:

But actually to some, it is not their fault that they can’t read and write.

When I was in Mityana recently, I realized that Annet, one of our borrowers, had to ask the Credit Officer for the inkpad to dip her Thumb for a finger print to show that she has received and signed for her money. Then one wonders why a woman who has never attended school strives so hard to ensure that her children go to school. Annet is quick to admit that she has learnt a lesson through a hard way and would never wish for anyone to be denied education. She says that she has 3 children who are all school going and she is happy that they help her manage her finances especially during their holidays.

Other ladies would agree that they can write but only their names and that they learnt this through Adult Education which is common in Uganda today.

Unlike these days where there is Universal Primary and Secondary Education (UPE and USE), finding a school-going child at home will tantamount to a legal proceeding unless that child is sick or on holiday, but those days it was normal for children not to attend school with excuses as lack of school fees, looking after siblings, looking after rice plantations and so on.

Annet strives to ensure that her children have a better future and can be self reliant through education so that the illiterate generation that she grew up in is wiped out completely. She has done this to the extent of sacrificing her marriage to a husband that never wanted her children to go to school because he did not believe in spending where he saw no short term returns. Such is the strong belief that is engulfing most of the entrepreneurs in their struggle to success and Kiva is making all this possible.

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JD is responsible for ensuring that Kiva maintains and grows its core commitment to the disadvantaged beneficiary of its internet platform. He leads the development and execution of Kiva's social performance strategy, which entails measuring, providing judgment on and communicating the social performance of Kiva's operations including its MFI Field Partners and new product initiatives. After growing the Kiva Fellows Program into a critical contributor to Kiva's success and one of the largest and most sought after networks of microfinance volunteers in the world, he gladly accepted the challenge of developing the social performance practice at Kiva. JD brings over fourteen years of leadership and program development experience both in the corporate and not-for-profit sectors. Prior to Kiva, he built robust systems to achieve $3M as Director of Resource Development at ACCION International, served with the U.S. Peace Corps in a poor, rural region of Bulgaria, and held senior roles at a variety of early stage companies during periods of rapid growth. JD holds a BA in Russian Language and Comparative Literature from Washington University in Saint Louis.

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