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How to inject entrepreneurial thinking into your classroom

The African continent’s economy has recently taken a significant knock as a result of a number of factors, including stagnating growth and the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the African Development Bank, the pandemic contributed to an increase in poverty levels, higher rates of unemployment and inequality, and expected long-term shortages of income-earning opportunities.

What does this mean for the man on the street? A stubbornly persistent employment crisis, especially among the youth, that has for many months meant that young Africans have limited job prospects. In some cases, their only hope of achieving economic security is to start their own businesses. But are we adequately equipping the youth, through education, to start and run businesses that create jobs?

It’s important to interrogate how African governments can better prepare young people to be entrepreneurs. And it, perhaps, may be time to consider including entrepreneurship in curricula to help change the economic trajectory of the continent. However, this may not be an easy task if educators are not taught or enabled with the right skills to teach entrepreneurship.

So how can educators prepare themselves to teach students to succeed in entrepreneurship within this difficult and uncertain, yet hopeful, environment? As the current economic conditions evolve, so also should the skills required to live an economically viable life. It is this evolution that will determine the aesthetics of a society that will emerge from this period – hopefully a long-term sustainable society anchored by innovative, future-facing and entrepreneurial young people. For this to be achieved, here are three ways educators could play a role of making their classrooms entrepreneurial.

  1. Help students make brave and bold decisions

The taboo of failure in business is well-ingrained in our societies. Parents go as far as only encouraging their children to go to school, attain a degree and find a job. This thinking is partly informed by the idea that entrepreneurship may not be a viable and secure career option for their children and that finding and working a job is a much safer option. But this is clearly not pragmatic considering the times.

As an educator, part of helping students become brave enough to become entrepreneurs is to debunk the myths, rid them off the taboo, and change their thinking about starting businesses and finding success in an enterprising career. The best way to achieve this is to encourage students to start trades, even at this level, and to trade among themselves. Simple ideas include offering to wrap other students’ books with covering paper for a fee, or even buying and selling stationery in class.

This way they’ll experience the possibility of success for themselves and from that experience. And, whether their ventures fail or succeed – they can learn important skills and attitudes to attaining success.

In the classroom, encourage students to discuss what they know about and understand different careers. Discuss their knowledge and experience of entrepreneurship. And, lastly, get them thinking about starting their own businesses. This could be formalised through a group project or assignment. This will provide them with an experiential learning opportunity that transforms their old ways of thinking while creating a relatable starting point for making the bold decision to choose entrepreneurship as a career.

  1. Demonstrate with relatable examples what is possible

Create a showreel of relatable African entrepreneurship success stories so that the students can see for themselves that it is possible. This should invoke curiosity, and inspire them to achieve these entrepreneurial feats for themselves. Often, young Africans find it difficult to relate to Silicon Valley success stories because their context or background is not similar. They’ll, therefore, be better encouraged when they can see (and even engage with) people who look like them, can talk in their language, and have similar backgrounds.

Tip: We have a collection of case studies that showcase a variety of entrepreneurial journeys and that resonate globally. You can download the Anzisha case studies from our online library.

  1. Encourage creativity

At the foundation of every enterprising endeavour is creativity. It’s the ability to identify and understand a need, and, therefore, imagine what the solution should be to meet it. Once you can imagine it and then build the solution, you are at the beginning stages of a business.

Educators can encourage students to be creative by first dismantling rigid mindsets and attitudes through a process of unlearning. Allow students in the classroom to behave unconventionally, or to do activities that are often considered not for the classroom. That way, you’re allowing their minds to begin thinking outside the common constraints. You could, for example, ask them to play their favourite group games in the class during a lesson. It can be anything: darts, paper planes, etc. The idea is for the student to do the unconventional in a classroom setting.

This lesson is learnt through doing. Therefore, educators must design their lesson plans in such a way that they spend less time in the front presenting, but instead creating an environment within which the students do creative activities the most. 

It’s completely possible to build a population of young African entrepreneurs and to contribute to ending joblessness in the process. This should start at the basic education level and educators will need to be empowered with the necessary tools and resources to enable young people to create their own jobs.

DOWNLOAD this FREE resource!

If you are an entrepreneurship educator, youth program facilitator, careers counsellor – or simply interested in how to design opportunities for entrepreneurship practice – this free eBook is for you!

How to Develop Entrepreneurial Behaviour Through Entrepreneurship Practice is designed to you create an environment where young people can develop entrepreneurial skills through entrepreneurship practice. DOWNLOAD now.

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