Schools urged to teach entrepreneurship

(This article was first published on 5 March 2016 on page 21 in the Business section of the Weekend Argus, a weekend newspaper published in the Western Cape province of South Africa.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Schools need to teach children how to be entrepreneurs if South Africa is to turn around its economy, said futurist Clem Sunter this week when he visited a school following his advice.

It was a year ago that Sunter first told Christel House, a combined primary and high school in Ottery, to start an entrepreneurship course for its pupils.

When Sunter returned to the school this week he met some of the pupils who are part of the Social Enterprise Academy. The latter is an entrepreneurship curriculum developed in the UK and running for the first time locally.


MONEY MINDS: Future strategist Clem Sunter chats with pupils about their entrepreneurship programme at Christel House primary and high school in Ottery. Pupils who will start their own businesses include, from left to right, Charanick Schrader, Ayabukwa Sombo and Emihle Ndlwayivulwa. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Sunter sat with some pupils in their classroom to encourage them to start their own businesses.

Sunter told Weekend Argus this was essential, as “work has changed”.

“In South Africa, 50% of young people leaving school can’t find jobs. One of the reasons is that schools have not realised that work has changed,” said Sunter.

“Most young people are either going to have to set up a small business or join a small business.

“Every school now should have a programme teaching kids how to run a small business. Things in this country happen when they are bottom-up, not top-down.”

Sunter added: “I want there to be a realisation among all these incredibly talented schools that they have to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit and do it for their kids, rather than some politician deciding that this is what they need to do.

“I persuaded this school that it was a good idea and I want to persuade other schools. I want to get people involved who run real businesses, who have real knowledge.”

Habiel Adams, economics and business studies teacher at Christel House, is tasked with running the academy for 50 pupils in Grade 10 and 11.

Adams said the core difference between this programme and a straight-up business workshop is that the focus is not solely profit.

“Social entrepreneurship is built on people, profit and planet. That means there will be a profit but it is going to a socio-economic issue the children decide on,” said Adams.

“Some of them said they want to raise funds for Christel House pupils at university and need money for text books.

“Beyond the bottom line, you are aware of people. They will make a difference in a small way.”

Adams said pupils would be encouraged to take the skills they gain, during this year of the programme’s debut at the school, and apply it in life beyond the classroom.

“If they see social entrepreneurship can work at school, they can take that up in their personal capacity too. It can be used to end the poverty cycle in the long run,” said Adams.

A few of the academy’s participants already believe that entrepreneurship can shift their financial realities.

All pupils at Christel House are from low-income households and receive full funding to complete school all the way through Grade 12.

Grade 10 pupil Ayabukwa Sombo from Langa said she lives in a hostel with her mother where “there’s too much noise”.

“Especially on weekends, when people get drunk. We see things that we should not see at our age. We are all in one room and it’s a small space,” said Sombo.

“Entrepreneurship will help me better my situation. I want to make money but at the same time do something for people.

“Maybe building houses because there are still shacks. I can just try to help.”

Another Grade 10 pupil, Charanick Schrader from Manenberg, said she wanted to start a business to change her life.

“I want to better the situation that I’m in now. Manenberg is facing a lot of social problems. I want to be able to take my family out of there and into a different community that is stable,” said Schrader.

If pupils at Christel House successfully run their businesses beyond high school they would be going against the grain locally, as entrepreneurship is not viewed favourably as a career option.

The recently released Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Report, taking into account 2015 activity, shows that only 9.2% of working-age South Africans start their own business.

GEM details business activity worldwide and its executive director Mike Herrington said policy makers should make available funding sources for entrepreneurs. He said an “enabling framework” was also needed to “allow untapped entrepreneurial potential to emerge”.


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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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