School excels in practical entrepreneurship curriculum

Students at M-Pesa Foundation Academy in Thika are equipped with skills and encouraged to run enterprises in school.

At 16 and in high school, Prudence Atieno already has dependants. Last week, she withdrew Sh23,000 from her account, an amount she wired to her cousin’s school in Kisumu. Her cousin had been sent home for lacking school fees. This is not the first amount that Atieno has sent her family from the time she started making and selling mats.

What started a hobby when she was only seven has grown into an enterprise operating within the M-Pesa Foundation Academy in Thika.

Atieno has learnt to juggle studies and business. When students break from class to attend to extracurricular activities, Atieno holes herself up in the school resource centre where she tries out new designs of mats, lamp sheds, photo frames and baby shoes. She also paints whenever she finds time.

“At the moment, I am only selling what I already made. I am working on my KCSE project and, therefore, don’t have much time to do any more art,” says Atieno who runs Crafty Mats Creatik, a business that specialises in all forms of art. It is one of the 30 enterprises run in the school by different teams of entrepreneurs. 

Dr Stephen Walker, Director of Teaching and Learning at M-Pesa Foundation Academy says the aim of the Leadership and Entrepreneurship programme is to cultivate transformative leadership in students.

“We are teaching our students to be social entrepreneurs. Through the programme, we are training transformative leaders who are problem solvers more than business people who are only interested in making profit,” says Dr Walker.

Walker says all students at the school are required to take entrepreneurship units. However, those interested in taking the training a notch higher and running a business are encouraged to set up one at the school.

In Form One they are encouraged to form groups and come up with a business plan, which they present to a committee that decides whether or not it is practical and ethical.

On approval, the entrepreneurs are given a startup loan depending on their budget and allowed to run the business for two years. The programme, Dr Walker says, is taught by teachers trained in entrepreneurship.

Additionally, the entrepreneurship club has a patron who invites business moguls to mentor the young entrepreneurs.

Atieno has also sold her art to high profile individuals. One was a portrait of Kenya’s first president Jomo Kenyatta, which she sold to President Uhuru Kenyatta at Sh15,000.

Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed also bought a portrait for Sh10,000. Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i also gave Atieno Sh4,000 for a mat during a function at the school.

All sales are taken to the school’s finance department and deposited in a bank account. It is improper for students to keep money they make from the sales.

“We are not allowed access to the money until at the end of the two years, but one can apply to withdraw a certain amount if a need arises at home. You must, however, have a valid reason to get the money,” says Atieno who withdraws small amounts to pay her cousin’s school fees.

At the start of Form Four, the school invites external financial experts who estimate the worth of each enterprise in preparation for bidding.

The business is then sold to entrepreneurs in Form One who offer the highest amount of cash. It is also at this point that shareholders in the particular business, now in Form Four share all the money accumulated during the two years.  

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