Opinionista Michael le Cordeur 18 January 2021

Teach our kids how to be entrepreneurs – it’s a way out of the unemployment impasse

All learners should be exposed to entrepreneurship at school. It teaches young people to create work for themselves instead of just looking for work. Thousands of people have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, but the pandemic has also created many new opportunities. Entrepreneurship studies will open the eyes of learners to these opportunities.

In my previous column, I asked that we should consider postponing the reopening of the schools. It is gratifying that the request did not fall on deaf ears. Nevertheless, 2021 will be full of challenges. The first is that, with so many teachers having fallen ill or died, principals will struggle to get replacements in time for 15 February.

One solution would be to make use of newly graduated B.Ed. students. The irony is that my university this year received more applications than usual for Honours; more than our capacity. There are two reasons why students prefer to do another degree (online): the first is the uncertainty about the safety of teachers. The second is that, even with a B.Ed. degree, graduates struggle to find employment.

Officially, 30.8% of 11.1 million South Africans of working age are jobless or not studying further. Unemployment among young people between 18 and 24 has long been a problem, even before the pandemic. After the first wave, it increased to 23.3%; among the highest in the world. 

Studies show that, during an economic crisis, young people are the first to lose their jobs and the last to get their jobs back.

Urgent intervention is required and education plays an important role. 

Matric is important, but how ethical is it to present a matric certificate as the key to the future when matrics do not take subjects which prepare them for the world of work?

All learners should be exposed to entrepreneurship at school. It teaches young people to create work for themselves instead of just looking for work. Thousands of people have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, but the pandemic has also created many new opportunities. 

Entrepreneurship studies will open the eyes of learners to these opportunities.

Think of the kids of Khayelitsha who started a shopping service for the elderly, and the young man who started installing water tanks during the drought of 2017. These young people now support themselves and deliver a service to the community while contributing to the country’s economy. There are many other examples.

It is also a good idea during this time of job scarcity to offer your services free to a school or any other organisation. Schools especially could do with a few extra hands. Show your worth and ensure that you deliver a service which is indispensable. See it as an investment in your future. This is something my children did after completing their studies. Eventually, they were appointed and have not looked back.

The old Chinese proverb recommending that one should teach someone to fish instead of supplying a fish still holds true. This should be the purpose of education: to teach young people to be self-sufficient instead of standing in a queue every day for a handout.

In the past, our children were taught how to write a letter of application. In the new normal, perhaps we should teach our children how to draw up a business plan.

There are many businesses looking for a proprietor. Seize the moment! DM

Prof Michael le Cordeur is head of Stellenbosch University’s Department of Curriculum Studies and ambassador of the Rapport Bursary Fund.

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  • Entrepreneurial skills will compliment the impulse to focus on critical thinking skills instead of rote learning. Teaching for empowerment is the best way for individuals to become responsible, practical idealists.

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