As an accounting academic, Ansulene Prinsloo is all too aware that many university graduates cannot get jobs in South Africa, joining the country’s nearly 54% of unemployed youth, according to figures from Statistics South Africa.
She also watched her eldest son, Berno Potgieter, 26, battle through a degree in chemical engineering – only to see him abandon the field completely after three months of work, to build a technology start-up company and app that has led to national success.
While she still values a university education, she no longer believes a degree is a guarantee of success.
“The world is changing so fast, and we need to change with it; if not, our children will stay behind. People think, to be successful, you have to go to university. But even a degree is no guarantee of a job, regardless of how well-qualified you are … Our children need to be taught how to start their own businesses. They need to consider entrepreneurship as a career choice.”
Knowing the traditional school system did not adequately prepare children to set up their own businesses, Prinsloo set about looking for a solution, and found one in the form of an entrepreneurial and financial literacy programme for youngsters, starting right from Grade 1. It is the brainchild of another academic – the former director of the University of the Free State’s business school, Danie Jacobs – who developed the programme, called Young Entrepreneurs, in collaboration with international experts.
She was so impressed with the content, which has been designed to bring out the entrepreneurial mind-set in children through a collection of fun, interactive, multi-media activities, that she bought the franchise for Nelson Mandela Bay. She received training in Bloemfontein, and sourced experienced business people as facilitators. She has already been approached by a number of schools in Nelson Mandela Bay to implement the programme, which will start in February 2017.
“The main reason I wanted to get involved in this was to develop entrepreneurial skills for my youngest son, Roan, who is in Grade 6. I am not going to sit and wait for him to get to Grade 11 or 12 and then we all decide what he is going to do after school. I want to start preparing him now for the future, to give him a head start in life … Our kids need to be more entrepreneurially-minded. By setting up their own businesses, many more jobs will be created – contributing to the development of our country and addressing the high levels of unemployment.
“I’m not saying youngsters shouldn’t go to university, but they should also be equipped with business knowledge.”
What also drew her to the programme was its strong social drive, as she is “extremely passionate about helping others”. For her, one of the highlights of being an accounting academic has been running annual accounting winter schools for Grade 11 and Grade 12 learners, which she has successfully coordinated for several years, in partnership with leading professional services firms.
Now, she is keen to secure sponsorship from leading Bay firms, to work in partnership with the Young Entrepreneurs Foundation Trust, to ensure that less fortunate children also benefit from the Young Entrepreneurs programmes. “This is the real need … In Bloemfontein, for example, a social worker’s request led to the programme being successfully rolled-out to all the shelters in the city, to equip homeless youths and adults with entrepreneurial skills.”
In each year of the programme – which caters for children aged seven to 15 – the children have to run their own small businesses, which entails coming up with a name and logo, registering the business, making business cards, creating a product (with a loan from their parents) and then selling it at a market day – the highlight of the entrepreneurship programme. “They are exposed to the whole journey of becoming an entrepreneur. And they have to pay back the loan to their parents – this is an important value that the kids are taught from the first lesson.”
They also learn how to manage their money, with a strong focus on saving, spending, sharing and, from Grade 4, investing. And they learn about the “flow” of money, and how to track and manage it, including calculating compound interest (to understand how credit cards work, etc.) and setting a personal budget. They also learn about “needs versus wants” and how to get the best value for their money.
“By the time the Young Entrepreneur learners leave school, they will be business-savvy and better prepared for the real world. They don’t have to wait till after school or after university to run their own businesses … By Grade 9, they will probably be more financially literate than many adults.”
The programme includes workshops for parents too on how to raise money-smart, entrepreneurially-minded children. For instance, parents are encouraged not to just give pocket money to their children, but to let them earn it, so they have a “real world” appreciation of money.
“Danie [Jacobs] believes while not everybody will be an entrepreneur, everybody should be financially literate. It should be a core skill, like spelling or reading, which each child should acquire at an early age.” Jacobs will be presenting his first workshop for Bay parents early next year (date still to be confirmed).
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