One experience that sticks out in my memory is when my teachers asked me what I would like to become when I grow up. Everyone had said the usual; doctor, nurse, pilot and the like.
Then the question was posed to me. Being ‘neither too clever nor too stupid’ as the late Wahome Mutahi would say, I blurted out that I wanted to be the President. Everyone laughed at me.
It was very embarrassing. So I went home and asked my mother what she would like me become when I grow up. “Doctor”, she said. Then she added something I have not forgotten till now. She pointed at a house help who was cutting grass and told me to work very hard in class if I did not want to end up like her. Now, in our culture, such tasks were reserved for men who did not do very well in life, the women were the housemaids.
Even my young mind understood it that way. Therefore, you can see why the example was poignant to me. My understanding was the lady must have done as badly as she possibly could. Boy, didn’t I work hard in school. But something else was cultivated; that I must study to gain paid employment. That is a notion I’m still struggling with.
The role of role education is significant in nurturing how we think and act; culture. Entrepreneurship is a culture. It is a unique way of doing things that is innovative and solution based. Education, formal and informal is significant in the development of culture d institutions in developing an entrepreneurial culture is critical and cannot be overemphasized.
There is good work being done at various levels of education but more still needs to be done. This is a challenge with entrepreneurship being a way of life. Entrepreneurs are opportunity-obsessed. Their attitudes and perceptions reflect these. So, how to deliver these effectively? At Rwanda Tourism University College (RTUC), we have learnt that it is simply impossible to instill these values, knowledge and skill in one subject per semester. We have instead adapted four strategies to ‘embed’ entrepreneurial mindset in our students.
First, we have started to review our entrepreneurship module with a view of delivering improved modules to our degree students. This review is being done be done by peers at the university, local and international partners such as the associations of hospitality industry players, Workforce Development Authority (WDA), Inholland University (Netherlands), Match Makers Associates (Tanzania) among others.
This new module will be ready next year. What is unique about this is that we expect to our students to be exposed to and taught entrepreneurship from their first day at RTUC.
Second, RTUC will develop new entrepreneurship modules for our non-degree students. These will include short courses, both for certificate and diploma certificates. Here our focus will be on practical and applicable aspects so as to achieve the quick wins.
We also intend to mainstream entrepreneurship in all the other subjects that we teach. This, we believe will make them not only more practical and relevant but also more interesting and focused. This will be supported by extracurricular activities such as Business Plan competitions, guest lecturers and entrepreneur testimonies, case studies among others. We believe that this will instill innovative and critical thinking which our students need to succeed as entrepreneurs.
Lastly, we will build capacities of both the trainers, internally (training of trainers) but also externally through business based trainings for the industry.
We do need feedback and participation of the players in the industry but so far a lot is not happening as it should here. The hospitality industry players should see to it that they are involved in such endeavors it benefits everyone both in the long and short run. This is very important.
Sam Kebongo is a skills development and business advisory consultant. He teaches entrepreneurship at Rwanda Tourism University College. Comments to: