You are the co-organiser of the Young Entrepreneurship Project (www.yep.works). It involves students from the Netherlands and students from Stellenbosch University, but the aim is to help school children from poor areas. Please would you tell us more?
Education entails so much more than just learning. It contributes to the development as well as sustainable changes of individuals and groups. These changes can include discovering and utilising potential, as well as developing capacity in the field of social impact. By “matching” students from the northern hemisphere with students from the southern hemisphere, we allow them to learn from each other, gaining insight into each other’s worlds, and through knowledge-sharing they can work toward a transition into a sustainable future.
Entrepreneurial education is essential in this context, because improved and scaled entrepreneurship is the engine for economic growth, poverty reduction and reduced youth unemployment. So, it’s a win-win situation: students share their entrepreneurial skills with high school learners and act as coaches in real-life settings, and thus they contribute to implementing real-life business ideas.
The project did not start in South Africa. Please would you tell us about your work in Kenya?
For a few years, I did a similar project in Kenya. There were very challenging conditions at rural high schools in the Rift Valley. Students and high school learners had no electricity and no clean water or basic food, and they prepared their sessions with only paper and pen. The project, however, was very rewarding for the students as well as the high school learners. We worked with students from a local university (Moi University), and I matched these students with a group of students from Hogeschool Utrecht. The learners couldn’t believe that students had come all the way to their school to help them with entrepreneurship.
How, then, did you get involved with South Africa?
I also did an online import-export project with my counterpart (Chris Pentz) at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. My students did research on the importing of Kanonkop wine into the Netherlands, and students at Stellenbosch University did research on the importing of Dutch Beemster cheese. Together they had to look at import-export regulations, import taxes and logistics. This was about 20 years ago, when the main modes of online communication were only Skype and email. When I came back to Stellenbosch a few years ago, I asked Chris Pentz whether he was interested in a new project, and he referred me to Adolph Neethling. We initiated a new Young Entrepreneurship Project together, in which our students jointly developed and taught educational materials that were especially tailored to high school learners, which was a new and advantageous approach compared with earlier similar projects.
Am I correct that you are looking for partners who can assist with internet connections? Please explain more.
Some less privileged schools don’t have the option to join this project because they lack computers or proper internet connections. During the lockdown, we offered the project online, and this excluded a large group of schools that simply lack the online connectivity options. Had they had internet and computers, they could have joined as well. What I see is an acceleration of (digital) knowledge transfer, where a large group of schools that lack connectivity are excluded from this development or are experiencing slower development in this respect. This can be avoided by providing sponsored online connectivity that can be utilised for educational development.
So, if people want to contact you to offer assistance, how can they do that?
The Dutch students give a fair amount of their time, and so do you. What do you and the students get from giving so freely to poor students in Africa?
There is a growing group of South African and international students who want to contribute to social impact and social entrepreneurship activities. They have an intrinsic motivation to support development towards a sustainable future, and they realise the impact that they can have, even at an individual level or as a small group of individuals.
Education is key in this respect and provides an enriching experience for all involved. It provides a high level of fulfilment, while allowing the students to work together with young people to develop and guide them in terms of emotional and material progress, self-confidence and confidence in their future.