Sophia just finished up “Market Day” at her school. As Grade 6 learners, she and her classmates had to create items to sell at school on 2 different Market Days. Their primary audience was other students. But at the second Market Day, parents were invited to come and visit the stalls as well.
As part of this learning exercise, Sophia worked with a classmate to create items to sell according to the rules that it must be recycled. They had a very limited budget for buying supporting supplies. Sophia and her friend used tea bags (used) to decorate note cards. They also planted flower seeds in used egg carton sections. They also made bookmarks from recycled supplies and sewed coin purses from assorted supplies they already had. It was fun to see their creativity and energy around this.
The students were very supported by their teachers in their learning. They had to make a plan and keep good financial records. They were charged a small fee to “rent” their stall. And they had to give 10% of their profits to charity. But they did get to keep the rest of their profits so there was good incentive to be successful business people! Everything tied in – even their spelling words that week were business-related words.
I don’t remember learning about entrepreneurship when I was a kid. I’m not sure if it is a part of U.S. school curriculum today either. But even the few times I’ve been in South African schools, I’ve noticed that being an entrepreneur is presented as a career opportunity. And then of course, there is our kids’ experiences of Market Day at their school. I’m sure there are many more examples I’d know about if I were a regular South African student or teacher.
All around in South African life are creative entrepreneurs finding a way to create basic income or to build a large business. I’m glad South African schools are helping to foster the entrepreneurial spirit and business skills to go with it. To be fair, this supported learning is likely least available to the kids whose economic situations dictate that they need it the most. That is the rub in all this.
In South Africa, there are many people who are small-business owners and entrepreneurs, like other places around the world. Additionally, I see a kind of entrepreneur that I did not see before I lived here and I might not have always used the word entrepreneur to describe. These are the people I see who are using their determination and resourcefulness in order to create a tiny bit of income for themselves and their families: women selling Tupperware, purses, etc., to other women; crafts made and sold from wire and beads; a table with snacks for sale set up where large numbers of people come through (at a clinic entrance, by the University, etc.); men who walk the streets and parking lots with homemade brooms and baskets for sale, men and women selling fruit at a table on the sidewalk. The list could go on. And the reality is also present that unemployment is high and creating a small informal business is sometimes the only way for some to find an income.