Business Maverick


Meet the school blazing a trail on financial literacy and entrepreneurship

Meet the school blazing a trail on financial literacy and entrepreneurship
All the Acudeo College participating learners in this year's JSE Investment Challenge, who are inspired by teacher Giba Mahlangu (middle column, bottom right). (Photo: Supplied)

Maths teacher Giba Mahlangu at Acudeo College Crystal Park has been providing students with valuable and practical extracurricular lessons on entrepreneurship, current affairs and economics. It’s already paying dividends.

Acudeo College Crystal Park in Benoni was set up in 2013 as a joint initiative by Barnstone Education, and the Schools and Education Investment Impact Fund of South Africa (Seifsa) — it was part of a drive to bring quality education to areas not traditionally exposed to private education. However, in less than 10 years, the school is not only thriving but possibly exceeding private education standards, offering pupils opportunities to think out of the box and encouraging personal growth outside the classroom.

Mathematics teacher Giba Mahlangu started offering his students an extracurricular class, ‘The Boardroom’, in 2019, with the aim of teaching them all about entrepreneurship, current affairs and economics. Just three years later, against all odds and during the worst pandemic the world has seen, Acudeo College Crystal Park has frequently seen its teams win both monthly and annual JSE Investment Challenges. 

Mahlangu explains that The Boardroom is largely about improving financial literacy and teaching students about money, finances and the world of economics in a practical way. Committee members are taught leadership skills, given tips to improve their confidence and learn about the importance of succession plans in business. 

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However, the lessons extend beyond pure theory and members of the Boardroom compete in the JSE Investment Challenge and the Allan Gray Entrepreneurship Challenge annually. The Boardroom has participating students from Grade 8 to Grade 11, with each grade electing representatives to sit on an executive committee. 

“Sitting on the executive committee is all about honing your leadership skills, learning about succession plans in the workplace and improving confidence. Most of our school prefects and leaders come out of The Boardroom,” Mahlangu says. 

Although the topics of financial literacy, investment and entrepreneurship can be intimidating, the school has found innovative ways to engage with students to keep their interest high. For example, each year, the Boardroom adopts a different theme around history. While the theme in 2021 was the history of hip-hop, the theme this year is Egyptian mythology.

Each year teams choose their names in line with The Boardroom theme. Last year’s entrants included Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5; The Beastie Boys; Run DMC; Eric B and Rakim; and Jam Master Jay. This year’s teams have included Imhotep, named for the high priest of the god Ra, who was later hailed as the god of medicine. Other team names include Pepi I Meryre (an ancient Egyptian pharaoh) and Sesostris III (an Egyptian king).

Lathitha Mafika, a Grade 10 pupil at Acudeo College Crystal Park in Benoni and leader of the Brand Nubian team in 2021, says Mahlangu is the “best teacher ever!” “He interacts with us, inspires us and encourages us. He can make the most boring thing interesting and now, I am an investor for life. He has taught me so much in a short space of time,” he says. 

This year, Mafika is on the Sesostris III team, competing in the speculator category of the JSE Investment Challenge and he plans to study law post matric. “When I first started the challenge, I knew nothing about investing and now I feel I understand the markets very well. As Robert Kiyosaki says, you must learn how to make your money work for you rather than just working for your money. My dad gave me the book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, sometime last year and at the time, I found it difficult to relate to what it was saying but now it’s all starting to make sense,” he says.

Team participation at the school has been exponential, moving from initially entering six teams in 2019 to seven teams competing in 2020 and which more than doubled to about 15 teams last year. This year sees its biggest group of entrants to date, with 21 teams of four members each, or 84 pupils. And building on the success of the JSE Investment Challenge at the school in the past three years, the school has now pulled in pupils as young as Grade 8 and 9. However, teams are mixed across the grades so that older pupils who have competed before can guide and mentor the Grade 8s and Grade 9s. 

The name Acudeo is a composite of two words: acumen, or the ability to think clearly, make good decisions and exercise sound judgement, and Deo, which is Greek for God as it is a Christian ethos school. From all indications, pupils and educators are ensuring the school truly lives up to its name. BM/DM


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