Lugotshwa lusemanzi: Why are we not teaching entrepreneurship at school? Stellenbosch Business School Skip to main content
Thobile 1
Thobile Radebe, lecturer in Strategic Management, questions the absence of entrepreneurship within our country’s school curricula.

Globally, entrepreneurship is widely viewed as a remedy for numerous socioeconomic challenges including poverty, unemployment rate and inequality, and as a catalyst for economic growth.

However, it's essential to acknowledge the inherent challenges associated with entrepreneurship, particularly in regions like South Africa where success rates are low and small businesses often struggle to thrive. How do we adequately prepare individuals to navigate these challenges?

The Government and policymakers have made concerted efforts to cultivate environments conducive to business development, yet the ecosystem remains less than supportive in South Africa. Despite the availability of support mechanisms such as government programs, incubators, accelerators, and entrepreneurship training institutions, there's a concerning trend of high business discontinuance rates outweighing new business creations. This raises significant doubts about the future viability of entrepreneurship as a solution to the country's pressing issues of unemployment, inequality, and poverty.

Nonetheless, entrepreneurship can significantly contribute to economic development if individuals possess the requisite skills and mindset. Research underscores the importance of entrepreneurship training in fostering an entrepreneurial culture and equipping individuals with the skills necessary for success in dynamic environments. However, existing entrepreneurship training programs often lack alignment with market needs, highlighting the need for enhancement and improvement to effectively address socioeconomic challenges.

Studies suggest that introducing entrepreneurial training at a young age lays a solid foundation by cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset and culture. Yet, educational institutions predominantly focus on producing job seekers rather than job creators, neglecting to foster entrepreneurial spirit during formative years. This issue extends beyond formal education, as societal attitudes often prioritise traditional employment over entrepreneurship.

The saying “Lugotshwa lusemanzi” means that "a stick is bent while still wet", used to advise that children should be taught good manners while they are young so they will grow with that mindset.  It's imperative to equip young individuals with the skills essential for business development, as early learning experiences profoundly influence long-term beliefs and behaviours.

By nurturing entrepreneurial skills early on, individuals are better prepared to acquire new skills, adapt to diverse environments, and contribute meaningfully to the economy. Moreover, fostering an entrepreneurial mindset benefits not only aspiring entrepreneurs but also enhances creativity and performance in traditional employment settings.

School-level education is not enough. A child that is educated only at school is uneducated. Holistic education requires collaboration between schools and society at large, emphasising problem-solving orientation, business acumen, and entrepreneurial values. Encouraging youth to embrace entrepreneurship can catalyse a shift towards self-reliance, challenging prevailing norms that perpetuate dependency and inequality.

Individuals can then shift to take responsibility to improve the state of the country by creating something of value for the economy. This can change norms away from being dependent which may reinforce gender and educational inequalities and move away from people looking for jobs instead of creating jobs.

The fear of failure often deters individuals from pursuing entrepreneurship due to the inherent uncertainties. It's crucial to instill in young minds the resilience to embrace failure as a learning opportunity and persevere in the face of setbacks. Cultivating a mindset that values resilience and innovation is essential for both personal and professional development.

Teaching entrepreneurship to young individuals is pivotal for fostering entrepreneurship thinking and development. Embracing the notion that it's never too early to teach or learn entrepreneurship can pave the way for a brighter future, where individuals are empowered to create value for themselves and society.

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