American spoken word artist, activist and poet, Prince Ea in his video titled: I Just Sued the School System, quotes Albert Einstein where he said, “Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

This statement really captivated my thoughts. Afterwards, I immediately wanted to think differently. He raised issues I was not cognisant of, especially when he talked about how the school system hasn’t changed over the past 150 years. Prince Ea said, “One teacher stands in front of 20 children, each one having different strengths, different needs, different gifts, and different dreams, and each you teach the same thing the same way.” Looking at this case in Lesotho’s context, the situation was even worse.

I was mindful that the same education system was still active in Lesotho. Having been the product of this system, I began to agree with him entirely. So, I also imagined it would be wise for this ‘handicapped’ system to change for the benefit of our youths and everyone living in the Kingdom of Lesotho. I wanted to see the flexibility and sensitivity come into play in our education. I wanted to see the teachers transforming children into the youths of tomorrow, who can think creatively and wisely to overcome the challenges facing them. These challenges include unemployment, lack of opportunities, corruption and nepotism. Indeed, youths are the future of this country, if they are incapacitated; the whole nation is, too, incapacitated.

After watching Prince Ea’s video once, I reflected on my past schooling days to ascertain what went wrong in our education system, from when I became a pupil until I finally became a university student. My findings revealed that there are two types of children that were not given equal opportunities: The bookworms and the money-makers. And our education foundation was not hundred per cent good for our children.

When I first went to school nobody told me why I was sent there, even my parents didn’t tell me. It was not their fault. The system conditioned them to think that they should send their children to school to get qualifications, if they don’t go to school they will never get good jobs and be successful. The parents obeyed, it was a great idea to them, but I think there should’ve been other alternatives to that idea or a plan B. So that when plan A (school) failed, plan B (talents or gifts) could take over.

I went to school for the sake of witnessing everything my elder brother would normally tell me after school, like what was happening in his school, the games he would play, the films he would watch. I had no plan and purpose to go to school except to please my parents.
I was too young then to make the right choices for myself. There were also plenty of young children who went to school without knowing how school would help them. Some of them were even pushed to school by ‘fire by force.’ Subsequently, they began to bunk classes; this school thing was boring for them. They later became dropouts. Why? School is not for everybody. Many dropouts have proven that over the years. There are successful people out there, with success stories, who found no worth in school or finishing school but still are leading successful lives. There is no formula to success and there is no single definition of success. Everyone defines success in his/her own way.

Every morning when some people go to school, those who don’t go to school, find ways of making money. In the evening, when pupils and students are studying notes, those who don’t attend school are counting money. When other children are born bookworms, others are born money-makers. This is something that the system didn’t tell us.

What is good for the bookworm may not be good for the money-maker and vice versa. For instance, if one tries to force the money-maker to become a bookworm to enforce what the system has taught them, it’s like “making a fish to climb a tree” as Prince Ea would put it.
Definitely, the money-maker would blunder and afterwards be labelled a fool. Parents and teachers never let your own fears and insecurities drown the children’s talents and calling in order to do what the system requires you to do. I’m not saying children should not go to school; I suggest that their talents or gifts should also not be overlooked, but should be given equal opportunities and nourished. If people are doing what they like to do best, then they are able to tap into their think tank and become creative and innovative.

What if school will not work for other children, does this mean they have to suppress their gifts or talents? What if some children get bored in school, does this mean there will be no life without school? No. There are numerous people who make a living with their God-given talents, not by their education: for instance, the likes of Cristiano Ronald, Lionel Messi and many other talented individuals.
Those who invented and imposed this system should have asked themselves these questions over and over to come with better resolutions. If they did their homework well, by now we should be having a generation of youth that is able to provide for themselves, regardless of whether they went to school or not, or whether they got themselves the jobs after graduations or not. But today most of the educated youths struggle if they don’t get hired. Although the government encourages them to start businesses, they fail to do so. How can they be encouraged to be entrepreneurs now when they are old and are not prepared for such things at a tender age? Truth be told, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

The unemployment rate in Lesotho is extremely scary. And nothing is being done to minimise the situation. The government failed to address this crisis. Youths can’t do anything with their lives. But, it’s not their fault that they can’t do anything. The system has conditioned them to think that the only way one can bail himself/herself out of poverty is by getting the job. This has been repeated to them a number of times. Children were not encouraged strongly at schools to engage in entrepreneurial activities and use their different talents. If they tried to sell small things such as sweets in school they would be suppressed, “You like money, and you won’t pass.” If they were always seen hanging together with other pupils, they would be told, “you won’t pass, urata mokhatlo (you like association).” If they didn’t pass well in their studies, the teachers would make remarks in their reports like “He could’ve done better if he didn’t play football.”

These children, including myself, grew up knowing that money, football and association were bad things. But the truth is, entrepreneurship, football skills and associations are not developed well at the grassroots level. In schools children spend most of their time in schoolyards than in any other places. In schools and in our communities, let us stop suppressing our children’s talents. Let us encourage and help them to realise their dreams. Prince said in his video, “Let’s give each gift an equal opportunity.” I too, say so.

If children are given the chance to showcase their talents, without being pressurised to be what they were not destined to be, they would not be destroyed and end up being useless and hopeless youths when grown up. Lesotho really needs strong youths who can use whatever talents they have to eradicate poverty, to employ others, to mitigate the challenges they encounter and to put food on the table. Lesotho can be a better place for its youths if it becomes a place “where the fish are no longer forced to climb trees.”

Now, educated youths spend their quality time looking for jobs. And seeking a job in Lesotho is like seeking a diamond. When a graduate has found the job, it’s as if he/she has found the diamond. As a result, youths become victims of corrupt and nepotistic individuals. They compete for a small slice of the job opportunity where either they are asked for bribes or the job is given to the relatives or given to the political party compatriots of the employer.

Corruption and nepotism are highly hitting our youths and many job seekers. It’s really hard to uproot them completely. However, we can reduce them. We can achieve this if we can all stand up boldly against these immoral practices by showing openly that enough is enough and that we need transparency in matters that affect us. Recruitment and selection processes should be carried out in a transparent manner. People should not be employed particularly because they are affiliated with a certain political party or because they are relatives of the employers. People should be hired because of their skills, knowledge and abilities.

These bad practices should stop. They are the sources of depression, loss of hope and lack of motivation for the youth. Young people will end up not seeing the importance of education. Equal opportunity for all is what our youth should strive for. They can all achieve this if they are firm in tackling their obstacles.

Creativity and innovation is what the youthein Lesotho today lacks. I don’t blame them for being less creative; they were conditioned by our education system. That is why you will see many graduates with envelopes, applying for jobs instead of creating jobs. I am part of them; I am also conditioned by this system. But truth is that the labour market can’t absorb all of us. This situation is really frustrating. It kills our self-esteem. It’s shattering our hopes every day.

Why are we suffering while holding certificates in our hands? Why is the system not hiring us? Why is the system not creating platforms for us to practice our skills and knowledge? Why is the system not lending us money to start businesses? All these questions are directed to the system that turned us into bookworms and job seekers, not entrepreneurs and money-makers. We can’t be told now to be entrepreneurs; we were suppressed when young.

It’s so sad to see young people, equipped with good skills from a tertiary level, hawking down the streets to try to make a living. Some lack guts and capital to start their businesses. Others are competing with the street vendors who never the opportunity to go to school. But unfortunately, they are still running their businesses the same way: no creativity and no innovation. I think that entrepreneurship is something that one should grow up practising instead of adapting to it when matured.

Although the ship seems to be sinking with our youth, the good news is that there’s still hope for them. But they need to break the psychological barriers that hinder them from achieving a bright future. They first have to be bold, change their mindsets and utilise the skills they learned in schools. Secondly, they have to use their talents to create something out of nothing. Finally, they have to think creatively, be dreamers and hustlers. There is nothing placed on the platter for them.

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Tell us: Should children be taught entrepreneurship from a young age? Why or Why not?