Omega Schools is a chain of almost 40 low-cost private schools located in the Greater Accra and Central regions of Ghana, serving over 20,000 students in nursery through Junior High School. It is the only chain of low-cost private schools in West Africa. Omega has developed a "school-in-a-box" approach that enables them to add new schools to the chain in a quick and systematic way. This approach includes detailed school operations manuals and systems in addition to standardized teaching and learning materials. Key components of the model include a daily, all-inclusive fee of 1.50 Ghana cedis (approximately $0.75) that allows families who might not be able to accumulate enough savings to pay a monthly or term fee to attend. This fee includes uniforms, a school bag, work books and exercise books, and a hot daily lunch.
Omega's head office in Kasoa employs Ghanaian and international staff that develop daily teacher lesson plans, student work books, and assessments for each grade and subject; these materials are used in all schools and are aligned with the national curriculum. Omega teachers are senior high school graduates who receive one week of pre-service training and approximately 2-3 day per term of in-service training.
The Omega school day is 7 hours long compared to a typical government school day of 4 hours. Each student is given 15 free school days per year (5 per term), and there is also a scholarship program in place to help the least advantaged students pay for a portion of their fees. Omega is also developing systems to collect and analyze student demographic information in order to assess and improve their ability to reach the poorest. Omega uses internal assessments to measure the learning outcomes of their students and has a standardized feedback mechanism to inform schools and teachers of their students' performance. Omega has participated in an initial comparative study of student achievement with other low-cost private schools and government schools, and plans to continue to do so each year.
The Omega Schools chain has low overhead and a low break-even point: a school is typically self sustaining once it has 500 students, which most of the schools do within a few months of opening. The chain broke even at enrollment of 6,000 students.
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CEI approaches in action
Uniforms, book bag, workbooks and exercise books, hot lunch
After the first term of the school year, teachers and school managers identify the neediest students and meet with their families to discuss enrollment in the scholarship program.
Omega opened two schools in 2009, two more in 2010, six schools in 2011, and 10 schools in 2012. Since March 2011, the total enrollment of the Omega chain has grown from 4,417 students to 11,596 students as of February 2013.
Omega plans to add 10-20 additional schools in 2013 for a total of 30-40 schools in the chain, aiming to reach enrollment of 20,000 students by October 2013. The founders of Omega are pursuing opportunities to replicate the model in Sierra Leone and Nigeria. One school has already opened in Sierra Leone.
Monitoring & Evaluation
Omega Schools collect demographic data from students when they enroll including breadwinner's occupation and mother's education level. Daily attendance and payment is also tracked. Midterm and end-of-term exams are given during each term in math and literacy. A sample of Omega students have participated in an initial comparative study of student achievement using the national test and comparing scores with those of students at other low-cost private schools and government schools. Omega plans to continue to participate in such studies annually.