Here’s a guest blog from Jane Wanjiru Kinyua, who is a Rotary Global Peace scholar pursuing her M.A in Peace and Justice Studies at the University of San Diego’s Kroc School. Jane is from Kenya and was a part of my recent practicum class that visited Colombia where we explored the intersections of social innovation, social entrepreneurship and their relationship to the ongoing peace building process.
Colombia has an extreme disparity in wealth between the country’s elite and the lowest income earners, with the country’s 2017 GINI coefficient remaining the second highest in the Americas at 50.8. Each neighborhood is classified in strata ranging from 1 to 6 whereas one is the lowest and 6 is the highest. However, some communes are in zero strata as they stay in condemned areas that are not recognized by the government; I was humbled to visit such areas and learn how people make it one day at a time.Reflecting on the inequality reality of Colombia and considering the stake of the future generation who are the children and youth of today, calls for the need to rethink ways of educating them to face the future with all the challenges it brings forth.
Borrowing from my experience of our visit in El Paraiso at the Investing Hope Foundation in Bogota, empowering children effectively requires intentional incorporation of relevant skills required to thrive in the social-economic situation surrounding them. As such, if a country has issues of ethnicity, tribal hatred or social stratification, children need to be equipped both formally and informally with skills that will help them to be more accommodating, less biased, and that promote unity, resilience, and forgiveness among others. Consequently, if a country has huge social economic inequalities, empowering children effectively would entail equipping children with skills that boost their creativity in developing diverse ways that can help them thrive irrespective of the social economic challenge limiting them thus bridging the social economic gap. But how do you practically teach children to be entrepreneurs without violating their rights aschildren? This question from one of my fellow students challenged my perspective. Thinking about it, and reflecting on the context, there is a thin line between the intersection of practically teaching children financial literacy and safeguarding their rights as children; challenging yet achievable. This was evidenced by the work done by Investing Hope Foundation
Young Social Entrepreneurs: Credit and Saving Program for Children
Entering in their workshop, we found young social entrepreneurs undertaking different enterprises. Cautious of the hygienic handling of their product, every child had a hair cap, mouth and nose protective gears and gloves. Working in small groups, the children were busy sorting their candy of different color, size, and shapes for sale. Creatively combining them in every possible way to make them appealing to the eyes of any potential buyer. The other section involved another team of children making different chocolate bars decorated for different occasions. The last category included making cookies and adding different flavors. After sorting all these different products, and packaging them beautifully, they were taken to the weighing section where the price was determined depending on the weight of the final product after which they were declared ready for sale. All these sections were children-led! They had learned the skills required to successfully prepare the product and have it ready for sale and moreover how to make a profit from it.
Each child was allocated a certain number of items that he/she would commit to selling throughout the week. This was well recorded and the expected amount of money equivalent to the total sale of the product noted. After the sale, the child would bring all the monies from where the expenses would be deducted and the profit saved under that child’s name. This is done every week after school on Friday afternoon and the children are made aware of the cumulative value of their savings.
What is the overall goal of the credit and saving program for children in El Paraiso? This program was started with the end in mind. Considering the cost of higher education in Colombia, the program is geared towards helping the children to save to enable them to attend university after which they would be able to get a better job, thus possibly improve their social strata.
Collaborating with schools
The program was tailored in that the theory part is done in collaboration with the schools they attend, thus it is made as part of their learning process. They are taught basic money management, related values of hard work, honesty and stewardship. The practical session is an afterschool program thus it doesn’t interfere with their schooling.
Although the main goal was to equip the children with financial literacy, the participating children ended up improving their arithmetic performance in school as the practical concepts taught of transacting money were applicable in their school work. Additionally, the project helps kids stay out of the street as they have goals they are determined to achieve, thus reducing vulnerability to engagement in drug abuse. Besides that, their income boosts their family income and gives them an opportunity to contribute to their own education through saving with the future in mind
The social enterprise with tangible results helps the children increase their financial awareness, learn money management, understand the power of savings, and the value of hard work. Additionally, they learn the virtue of discipline and gain a positive sense of responsibility. Besides that, the project nurtures entrepreneurship at an early age- a skill that can be transferred to other fields when they grow up.
Breaking the cycle of poverty requires disrupting the norm. Something different ought to be done: something that resonates to the needs of the community and that will answer the needs of a particular context. The education system in many countries prepares children for white color jobs which at the end, it doesn’t offer. My experience in Colombia is a challenge to all educators to innovatively come up with ways that can equip children with skills that prepare them to face the challenges of a changing world; educating their minds and hearts in nurturing creativity and innovativeness. In a nutshell educating them holistically with the future in mind.
Looking at the young social entrepreneurs, I felt a great sense of hope of a community redeeming itself from the gnaws of poverty that has held it hostage for years. Children learn problem-solving by being part of the solution.
Meet Jane Wanjiru Kinyua : https://globaledleadership.org/jane-wanjiru-kinua/