The inclusion of business and life-skills training in children’s education is increasingly important, particularly in the developing world, and particularly in Africa. In 2016 the UN estimated Africa’s population at 1.2 billion (almost 50% under age 18) and calculated an increase to 2.4 billion by 2050[i]. To survive this huge increase in population growth young people need skills to rely on for life. Whether entrepreneurial at heart, or passing on learnings to their peers and families, students taught these essential skills are one step ahead and less likely to plunge into poverty. They develop independence, confidence and self-esteem; improve academic results; and establish small enterprises generating extra income to contribute to education, or save for the inconsistencies of life.
In March last year, Opportunity EduFinance, Teach A Man to Fish (TAMTF) and Fundacion Paraguaya partnered to bring the School Enterprise Challenge and Business Club programme to 39 of Opportunity EduFinance’s schools in Tanzania. From training teachers through TAMTF’s School Enterprise Challenge, to working directly with children in schools with Fundacion Paraguaya’s 22-week Business Club curriculum, the project has impacted the lives of almost 10,000 children. These schools recently held an event for all participants to celebrate their first year of running successful school businesses - a success reiterated by Hugo Florentin, Country Manager for Fundacion Paraguaya in Tanzania:
"For over 20 years Fundacion Paraguaya has seen the huge benefits of training youth in entrepreneurial skills and financial literacy in Paraguay, Tanzania and many other countries. The integrated “Learning–by-doing–by-earning-and-by-saving” approach enables students to acquire and put into practice knowledge, skills and competencies that are necessary for employment and/or self-employment. We aim to ensure youth at risk of poverty and unemployment acquire these skills, and we have been excited to see the results of the partnership in Tanzania with Opportunity EduFinance."
The partnership has enabled the 39 Tanzanian schools to establish small enterprises; sustainable initiatives that will benefit many more students over time. Children and youth from ages 9 to 24 in Dar es Salaam and Arusha have developed skills that will prepare them for working life. In a short period of time students have learnt a multitude of factors to running a business including: planning, budgeting, production, marketing, HR, as well as learning the value of team work, equal roles for girls and boys, transferable skills for school studies, interaction with peers and communities. Many of the businesses established in the schools involved growing vegetables, baking, or making handicrafts including: groundnuts, chapattis, buns, vegetables, herbs, juice, body oil, poultry and jewellery. Students sold the produce within their schools and local communities keeping the savings in a school account.
These Primary School students made over 800 doughnuts per week. The tasty snacks cost just $12 to produce and the club is making regular profit of $40. Another school club went into handicrafts for their business, making bracelets, and so far this year has sold 525 at almost 50 cents apiece. One student, whose club had a garden business growing and selling herbs and vegetables, used the savings he made to help his mother at a time of financial difficulty. She was distraught when she couldn’t afford to buy him new uniform, but he was able to give her his club savings ($2.21) to pay for the clothes. They were both very proud. The important lesson for the boy was independence, being able to take his earnings and learnings home to the family.
One girls’ Secondary School in Dar es Salaam set up no less than four businesses. This is a school that struggled at the start as the business club was initially misunderstood and the 51 members were teased for participating. However, their resilience and success turned this around and made the club the most popular extra-curricular activity in the school. The girls also overcame the barrier of reluctant parents only interested in their daughters learning core curriculum topics, but on seeing the value of the life skills the project taught, parents went from sceptical to very proud. The club linked their business ideas to the needs of school: breeding frogs, guinea pigs and rabbits for use in Science, and starting up a School Shop - a great initiative for a rural school with no competition! In the first few months, the businesses brought a profit to the club of almost $500 selling within the school and to other schools in the area. Profits contributed to the school fees of three orphan girls enabling them to attend the school.
From girls to businesswomen
Opportunity EduFinance was particularly interested in the impact of the business clubs on girls. Across the project the clubs were a mix of both girls (54%) and boys; they shared roles and responsibilities, worked collaboratively and broke down many gender stereotypes. From a sample of 68 girls interviewed, by far the biggest impact reported was increase in self-confidence and self-belief. This renewed self-esteem for the girls opened doors to running businesses, leadership, improved studies, team work, and public speaking. Sadly, but unsurprisingly, prior to starting the project girls believed they had to rely on ‘husbands and boyfriends’ for money – through setting up Business Clubs these young women felt they now had an alternative to meeting their financial needs. One secondary school girl said:
"Through saving I am capable of supporting myself even if my family status is low financially. Saving can help me depend on myself to meet my personal needs instead of asking others to give me money."
The girls interviewed strongly stated that as women, they learned they are capable of successfully running a business and gaining independence, changing lifelong gender perceptions and believing in their future ability to support themselves. 35% of the girls interviewed had already started business enterprises outside of the project setting up livestock and vegetable farms in their homes. Their earnings contribute to their school and personal needs as well as contributing to their family’s well-being.
Pathways to a better future
The importance of entrepreneurial and life skills training also resonates across Opportunity EduFinance’s Pathways to Excellence school development guide. To help schools encourage these skills the guide supports schools in areas such as Learner Profile, Extra-Curricular activities, PSHE Education and Careers Counselling. Jonathan Renaudon-Smith, Opportunity EduFinance's Director of Education Quality, points out how important it is that schools support children in these areas:
"We hope that schools, having completed their self-assessments against the Pathways to Excellence criteria, will choose ‘Extra-Curricular Activities’ as one of their school development priority areas. We have provided resources and suggestions from around the world to support schools in building out an innovative school development plan in over 30 key areas. The benefits to students are well proven and reach into many parts of their lives both immediately and in the years after they leave school."
A 2013 report by GEM and YBI revealed that 60% of young people in sub-Saharan Africa aged between 18-34 were confident in becoming entrepreneurs[ii], and it is through partnerships with experts such as Teach a Man to Fish and Fundacion Paraguaya and with Opportunity EduFinance's training and resources that schools can help youth realise this. Providing learning that creates new pathways, giving children confidence and putting them in control of their future choices.
Click for further information on Opportunity Education Quality, Teach A Man to Fish and Fundacion Paraguaya.