Student entrepreneurship: Why it’s important for sustainability

For many students, the prospect of graduating and finding a job can be somewhat scary and overwhelming. The story is different, however, for students from Authentic International Academy in Kicukiro District.

Though still in high school, these students have done extra-ordinary things already. While pursuing their studies, they have embarked on an entrepreneurial journey that is opening doors to countless opportunities.

The students, a group of twelve, are manufacturing liquid soap and are already generating money from it. This, they are able to do, thanks to the skills they have acquired from their chemistry and entrepreneurship courses as well as general studies in sanitation and hygiene.

It’s important for students to learn how to work when still in school. Michel Nkurunziza.

Speaking of endless opportunities, earlier this year the students won a $2,000 cash prize when they emerged the best in Africa during a contest dubbed “School Enterprise Challenge” that brought together students from all over the world.

The competition gathered 9,000 schools worldwide and 84 schools participated from Rwanda.

Chuma Thaffi one of the students behind the project is proud of their initiative saying that they will not have to struggle with unemployment when they are done with school.

“When we finish school, we won’t fail to get what to do. We will be able to expand our project since we are already implementing what we study in class with the outside environment,” he says.

Thaffi says they started the project with an investment of Rwf 60,000 however with their prize money, they hope to expand their business. They plan on buying processing machines to increase production.

Income from this will help deal with their needs such as payment of school fees, the students say.

So far their clients have been their school and fellow students but they are marketing their product and are slowly penetrating the community.

The school’s headmaster, Jean Baptiste Tuyizere says students are now touring the community villages in Niboye sector, teaching residents about hygiene and sanitation but also using the platform to get clients.

Fruits of the new competency-based curriculum

Experts say the new competency-based curriculum, if well implemented could guide students on how to better put what they learn in theory into practice.

According to Joan Murungi, head of curriculum, teaching, and learning resources department at Rwanda Education Board, project generating activities are part of the entrepreneurship syllabus in the new curriculum.

She says the entrepreneurship syllabus provides skills such as ‘lab pedagogy’ which facilitates the practical part of the subject.

She adds that the syllabus also requires students to take part in business clubs such as extra curriculum activities, where they can learn and practice doing viable business projects.

Students at Riviera high school are also designing projects to preserve the environment.

The students have an environmental club which deals with paper recycling, an idea that came up after realizing how the environment is being polluted.

They say, pollutants mainly those coming from plastic bags, do not only harm the environment but seriously threaten its welfare citing examples of certain pollutants blocking trenches which results into high spread of diseases and a possibility of causing floods.

Ronald Wandira, head of humanities department at the school, and Year leader advanced level at Rwanda Education Board says when they came up with this idea; they were aiming at recycling waste into something that would benefit society.

Going by the slogan ‘resources are not known, fixed things; they are what humans employ to service wants at a given time’ Wandira says it is the reason why they sought those littered papers to make something useful out of them.

Importance of such initiatives for students

Teach a Man to Fish is also one of the organisations that train students to create business projects and management.

Sharon Munyazikwiye, the director of the organisation in Rwanda says they train students on designing projects, seeking funding for them and implementing partners as well as management skills in conjunction with teachers.

Florian Rutiyomba, director of arts and humanities subjects’ unit at REB says it’s important that students know and be aware of the struggle of getting jobs by the time they finish their secondary education.

With this, he says it’s important that teachers use active and practical teaching methods especially by employing ‘Skills Lab pedagogy’ where learners can be challenged to apply what they have learned in class to solve community problems. Business clubs don’t only encourage learners to start businesses in their communities but also help them gain skills of using available resources to solve problems.

Through such initiatives, they are able to harness opportunities in their communities without necessarily requiring capital as a basis of starting a business, he adds.

“This is intended to make them stop only expecting white collar jobs or have a mind-set that when you want to start up a business, you need to have a lot of money.”

On top of that, Rutiyomba notes that entrepreneurship being a practical, compulsory and cross cutting subject, students should be able to put the knowledge they acquire from it into practice.

For instance, he says in chemistry students learn a lot of things including making soap therefore, using that knowledge to come up with something meaningful is important to better their lives.

“What is important isn’t the type or size of the business they start at school, but rather inculcating their mind-set to scan their environment for business opportunities,” he adds.

Role of educators

Murungi says since all is provided in the competency-based curriculum, it’s the role of the school or teachers to follow up on what the students are doing so that they can help them do outreach programs that can help their communities.

“The competency-based model equips students with skills to go back into their communities and solve problems that their people are experiencing,” she says.

Wandira says in this 21st century, jobs that were on demand before are now phasing out for robots are taking over and the possibility of them occupying jobs that were done by human beings is high.

“This is the reason why educators should equip learners with skills. They should involve skilled based curriculum in the big syllabus that is taught at schools.”

He urges that some subjects like fine art are very important because they are self-sustaining adding that they should therefore be empowered and made independent subjects; this then will help harness the brains of the young ones who have talent.

“Not every child is gifted with brains for theoretical learning and a knowledge-based curriculum, but they can have talent and it can be art and craft and when given skills, they can be job creators other than job seekers,” he says.

Wandira adds that this helps the child to grow up with relevant skills yet at the same time contributing to the sustainable development of the country.

Their Views

Fabian Shema Ngabo, parent
It’s important for schools to always have clubs that help students explore their talents. In clubs, they can learn different things that can also horn their skills in communication, especially in debate clubs.

Peace Uwimana, disciplinary teacher
Students should feel free to share their interests with teachers so that they can be guided on what to do. On the other hand, as teachers, it’s their role to ensure that students get all the support that is needed.

Jean Marie Habimana, university student
Schools need to create different extra curriculum activities so that it allows them explore and find where their interests are. It also helps break the monotony of theory work they always have in class.

Sophie Mbabazi, matron
Teachers should work closely with parents so that they help students become all-around individuals in the future. When there is collaboration between the two, the students can feel secure which helps them to work hard.

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