Young business savvy

New programmes encourage learners to think like entrepreneurs

WITH 500 000 learners leaving school every year, more of them than ever will now have to choose to start a business.

In every sector there has been large-scale restructuring, resulting in a loss of previously secure jobs. An already-high unemployment figure only compounds a school-leaver’s plight to secure a position.

Many organisations have come out in full support of Curriculum 2005 to address this challenge by developing entrepreneurship programmes.

Making money: Some children have started thriving enterprises while still at school

The Open Society Foundation, with its annual K-TV Market Day, invites children between the ages of six and 16 to submit business plans. An M-Net official says, “The children continue to amaze us with their business savvy. As a direct result a number of children have established their own businesses, some of which are booming beyond expectations.”

Theresa van der Merwe, course developer of entrepreneur programmes, tells success stories. A Grade 5 learner from Stilfontein started a business removing weed-growth between the bricks of driveways. He markets his business with eye-catching pamphlets, gives quotes and arrives on time! And he makes a packet. A Grade 10 pupil from Springs started selling ice to garages, hotels and hospitals. Turnover ranges between R7 000 and R15 000 per month. This boy now owns a range of ice-making machines and freezers, and has an impressive bank account. Then there are the two Maritzburg girls who started KC keyrings. Their thriving enterprise sells its creations to fellow learners and local businesses. Their business grew out of the entrepreneurship programme run at their school, Wykeham Collegiate.

Wanda Booysen, who is head of Wykeham Collegiate’s business economics department, adds, “Not all children will run their own business and we’re not aiming for that, but with the understanding of how a business functions, they will be more useful employees too.”

For most teachers, teaching entrepreneurship is a real challenge. They have to change a mindset where learners assume that the world owes them a living to one where they realise that getting somewhere means doing so on their own initiative.

Business Ventures, a product of the Institute for Development Services (IDS), a non-profit orginisation, was developed to effect this learning outcome. Business Ventures is a comprehensive, practical programme for Grades 1 to 12. It provides basic business skills and lets children start a business and generate income, effectively bridging the gap between theory and practice. The programme includes a business game that allows learners to experiment and apply their acquired business theory to a simulated business environment. Business Ventures is based on group work, and learners work through activities at their own pace. This programme is currently being used in more than 1 000 schools around the country and in over 26 countries around the world with remarkable results.

Anne Kriel, who runs a very successful programme at Hilton College near Pietermaritzburg, feels that teachers need to look at ideas from other schools and then create their own programme suited to the needs of their students. She has created a post-matric entrepreneurship programme of 13 modules where participants have to start up and run their own business for a period of at least six months.

At Wykeham Collegiate the entrepreneurship programme starts in Grade 5. For the following two years learners learn how money works by playing business games. Then, in Grade 7, children form their own mini-companies, becoming part of either a crisp or ice cream company. They trade at the school and run a bank account. These companies get no funding from the school; parents provide the minimum start-up capital. In Grade 8 all pupils are involved in a business, either on their own or as part of a company. More advanced concepts are introduced up to Grade 10. In Grade 11 they make contact with overseas schools to teach pupils foreign trade.

Fiona Buchanan, one of the teachers on this programme, explains how a Grade 8 exercise involves the “making of paper T-shirts”. In this game of one hour, groups are faced with different types and unequal amounts of equipment on their tables. They buy paper from the teacher on an IOU account. Once the time is up she “buys” the shirts from them, checking for quality, among other things. The groups get charged for any unused paper. They learn:

- to work with each other in groups

- utilise their skills

- time management

- bartering with others for equipment

- that more is not always best, and

- to elect a good spokesperson to sell their shirts.

For teachers to equip themselves to introduce an entrepreneurship programme, Technikon SA offers a school package that includes staff coaching at the school, teachers training manuals, implementation guides, overhead transparencies, videos, case studies, practical projects and lessons. Costs vary between R4 500 and R7 500 depending on the items selected. Over 200 primary and high schools are using this programme.

To get off to a flying start, Kriel suggests that you decide:

- on your vision—aims and objectives.

- at what levels the programme will be introduced.

- how the programme will fit into the curriculum.

- on the course content and its implementation.

- how to assess the success of the programme and individual entrepreneurs.

- to continually adapt the programme to the needs of students.

The message is clear. Entrepreneurship training can unlock the creativity and confidence to put survival skills into practice.

—The Teacher/Mail & Guardian, April 10, 2000.

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