When learners are encouraged to embrace the savings culture from an early age, it gives them an opportunity to learn financial discipline and investment. Ordinarily, one would expect such values to be introduced to children by parents, but this is not likely to happen as children start school as early as two or spend the better time of their childhood under day-care centres because of their parent’s busy schedules.
Mwana Ukundwe, a non-profit Christian organisation that helps orphans of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, is providing a platform where children can learn how to save.
The organisation is instilling the culture of saving in children as young as 8, as well as those in secondary schools. They do this through encouraging them to generate small money for saving through doing simple manual jobs.
Samuel Byiringiro, the executive director of the association, says instilling this culture in young children is not only helpful in teaching them to save money, but also helps them to appreciate how to work, prevents them from bad habits as well as teaching them how to be self-reliant.
“In most cases, we do this during holidays, but then, it depends on if the child is in a boarding or day school. During vacations is the best time to help students who are in boarding schools to learn ways of saving money.
“The cases of children abusing drugs are still on rise, and the main reason is because most of them are idle. But if such children are engaged in work such as helping their parents on the farm and also doing petty work to generate money, it would prevent them from such vices,” he adds.
Byiringiro says the culture also ensures that this generation doesn’t end up as beggars in future.
“The money they save now will help them in future to start a business or do something meaningful in their lives,” he says.
Why teach saving to children?
The fundamental aspect that is lacking in most learning institutions is that educators don’t relate the importance of saving to real life experience, according to Stanley Mukasa, the in-charge of the entrepreneurship programme at Akilah Institute of Women in Kibagabaga, Kigali.
“Teachers should design a structure where they teach their students to practice saving with a real life scenario that connects to student’s life,” he says.
For instance, Mukasa gives an example where a learner can use their savings to take care of some petty responsibilities such as buying school bag, uniform or any other item that is required at school.
“Saving is a habit, and the only way of learning is through classroom activities, which are designed to show students its importance. When the learners know that the culture of saving is important, they will start embracing it, thus becoming a habit.
“Another main reason why this should be encouraged in learners from a young age is that, back at home, some parents don’t practice it. Leaning institutions should be an environment where students should be exposed to various lessons, including the savings culture,” adds Mukasa.
Simple ways of involving learners in saving
In the past, Byiringiro says children were given gifts such as chicks to look after and sell when they mature to get money which can be used as a saving. The same practice, he says, should be emulated by today’s parents, especially those upcountry.
“After sometime the child will eventually sell either eggs or chicken thus getting money to save, and at the same time it prepares such children to be responsible,” he says.
Another strategy is parents forming groups where they can also include their children to engage in saving.
“The case is similar to Mwana Ukundwe where they have a savings group for parents, but the parent is required to include their children in the group. A child contributes Rwf200, while the parent adds for them Rwf300 to make Rwf500.This is done monthly and is just one way of promoting and involving young people in the culture of saving,” explains Byiringiro.
For Grace Murengerantwali, a parent and member of a local savings group, schools are a good environment for children despite their age to learn the saving culture. She says this should be promoted through practice.
“Saving in young people requires practice like any other skills in life. After that, educators should be able to guide them on what to do with their savings,” she says.
Murengerantwali, however adds that during holidays, parents and teachers should encourage students to run errands that help them get small money.
“They should make sure such activities do not violate a child’s rights. All these should attract a small financial so that children are then encouraged to love work and save,” she says.
At Evangelist Church in Giporoso, Remera in Kigali, Peace Nyirahabizana, a Sunday school teacher says for them they work closely with parents to ensure that children under their care are encouraged to save.
“Every Sunday, a parent is supposed to give their children little money for offertory, but at the same time they also have to give them few coins that can be used to buy snacks. We help them save some of this money for future use or in case they have an emergency that requires money, particularly at school,” she says.
Nyirahabizana says schools can encourage parents to get their children piggy pots where they can keep the little money they get for about a year.
“At the end of this period, the child can then use their savings to buy goodies of their choice. This is a simple lesson that results into a culture later in life, and should be encouraged at all costs,” she says.