As a senior six student at Seroma High School Mukono, Yasin Ssentumbwe was required to join the boarding section.

This became a worrying turn of events for the 19-year-old who was concerned about the fate of his 500 pine trees that he had just planted.

“I was a day scholar and could easily prune and weed them. But now I had to raise money to hire someone who could do it for me,” he says.

Fortunately, Ssentumbwe had been one of the beneficiaries of the Raise programme, an undertaking that provides financial literacy training to students at Seroma, and he saw this as the opportunity to utilize the knowledge he had acquired.

“The Raise programme ambassadors taught us financial discipline and management. I knew that I could save and invest to get money to sustain my pine trees,” he says.

Ssentumbwe began by saving 10 per cent of whatever he earned during the third term holidays and by the start of the first term, he had enough money to pay a caretaker for his pine trees for the first month.

On reaching school, Ssentumbwe used his remaining savings to develop a business idea of selling salads to students – and it quickly took off – earning him not less than Shs 10,000 everyday.

Ssentumbwe’s experience brings the relevance of financial literacy among students into focus. Though not yet well-known, a few private establishments have come forward to offer students, especially secondary school-going, financial literacy training. Two such organisations are the Raise programme and Akamai Global.

“I think every African youth needs financial literacy training. It is financial illiteracy, poor planning and lack of saving culture that have kept us trailing the developed world,” Ssentumbwe says.

RAISE is an acronym for:
R – Reap what you sow,
A – Aspire to be the best you can be,
I – Invest in your future,
S – Start now,
E – Education is the key to success.

Programme proprietor Dan Boston, a native of Guyana, says the reason for Uganda’s youth unemployment is the abundance of unemployable and unproductive graduates.
“Uganda’s education system was designed for the industrial revolution and it is no longer relevant,” he says.
He, therefore, developed the Raise programme to teach students how money is acquired.

Systematic approach

Before becoming financially disciplined individuals, Boston says students are first taken through the process of self-actualisation – where they learn what it takes to be successful.

“We then shift the focus, teaching them practical skills necessary for today’s evolving economy. As part of this process we open bank accounts for each student, starting them on the road to financial prosperity,” he says.

The students are then motivated and inspired on how to reach their full potential through the use of role models and mentors.”

Elizabeth Kampiire, a senior two student at Mt St Mary’s College Namagunga hails the programme.

“I wish this programme was rolled out countrywide. It supplements the ordinary education system by teaching us perseverance, positive thinking, saving to invest and having a purpose in life,” Kampiire said after completing her holiday programme with Raise.

Boston says they primarily targeted secondary school-going children because it is at this stage where one can make or break their future. Rachael Abola, a director at Akamai Global ? experts in personal financial management issues ? agrees with Boston.

“At Akamai, we target children of 13 years and above for the holiday lessons. These are taught the importance of getting money, keeping it and not wasting it,” she says.

Abola refers to the Indian community, which introduces its children to family businesses at a tender age and they grow with financial discipline – something Ugandans ought to borrow. Both Boston and Abola agree that there is need to change the current obsolete education system, reduce the mismatch between skills acquired and jobs available on the market and promote a saving culture to boost small business creation.

A 2011 report by Bank of Uganda indicated that 62 per cent of the population lacked financial literacy. Since they make up 60 per cent of Uganda’s population, the youth were the most affected by this revelation.

Newton Bayo, one of the Raise programme ambassadors – people trained to conduct Raise programmes in schools ? believes the youth need practical skills other than just formal knowledge.

Saving is key

Bayo notes that it is no longer a luxury but a necessity for every parent to invest in educating high school students in financial planning, entrepreneurship, innovation and personal finance development. As Raise preach the 10 per cent saving culture, Akamai has a saving formula called the Akamai equation.

Instead of the traditional saving equation that Saving = Income – expenses, Akamai coined the equation that reads: Expenses = Income – Savings.

Students are, therefore, taught to first decide what to save and then they spend the balance. Boston notes that most parents are still sceptical about financial literacy courses for their children – though some have been positive and supportive.

“Some complain of the cost of Shs 200,000 for a week-long programme,” he says.

But one parent, who preferred anonymity and whose child trained at Raise, says the entire package is just as good for parents as it is for students.

“I personally do not believe in the local curriculum. But the Raise programme has made my daughter a giving and saving person and she thinks outside the box. I hope every parent can take it on,” says the parent.

According to Annamaria Lusardi, professor of Economics and Accountancy at the George Washington School of Business, financial literacy courses help young people to understand how to make wise financial decisions before—not after—they are faced with life-changing decisions.

“Just as it was not possible to contribute and thrive in an industrialized society without basic literacy—the ability to read and write—so it is not possible to successfully navigate today’s world without being financially literate,” Lusardi says.

And it is better to start in one’s early days. The assistant dean at Rider University in Princeton, N. J. John Farrell, says parents primarily play a role in teaching children about money.

“I believe parents are in the best position to educate their children. What better place to teach about money than in the ‘economic unit’ of a family?” he says.

He, however, says parents’ lessons on money matters should be complementary to what is being taught in schools and vice versa.

“The bottom line is that the biggest influences on a child’s personal financial behaviour are the ways in which their parents handle money matters and the financial education that parents provide,” he says.

The National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) is currently reviewing the lower secondary curriculum which is expected to focus on imparting life skills in students with entrepreneurship and financial literacy as focal points. In 2011, the deputy governor of Bank of Uganda, Louis Kasekende urged NCDC to incorporate personal finance as an examinable subject in the school curriculum to improve on the financial literacy levels in the country.

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