Rural Entrepreneurship Program (RED): Creating Sustainable Futures

The first class of entrepreneurs are presented their loan contracts. Pictured from left to right are Peter Luis, Founder & Director; Mary Tumaini, Margaret Melkiori, Thomas Laizer, 2nd Headmaster; Mzee Lesnet, Head of Security; Samwel Kuresoi, Seth Heinert, School Operations Coordinator; Mbayaba Sainguran and Brady Grimes, Agriculture teacher.

Rural Entrepreneurship Program (RED): Creating Sustainable Futures

Mbayana is a businessman. In an era where few American University students work to afford college, Mbayana put himself through primary school and his first four years of Orkeeswa School. At age nine he left home to enroll in school against his parents permission, learning early that one of the only ways to escape his current situation was to take a risk for the chance at something better. Learning of his enrollment in school, his parents condoned his decision but could not offer financial support, leaving him with the option to quit or determine a way to make money. Graduating from Form Four (10th grade), Mbayana has successfully paid his way through eleven years of school by buying and selling livestock in the local market. Mbayana’s story is not unique. Well over 90% or Tanzanians fall into the informal economy, having to create their own path to financial self reliance. With a loan of $250.00 (375,000 TZ shillings) through our entrepreneurship program, Mbayana can now formally expand his livestock business, significantly improving his chances of generating a substantial profit.

My favorite definition of entrepreneurship records it as the pursuit of opportunity without regard for what you have. Hearing stories like Mbayana’s it is plain to see that the students at Okeeswa have unmatched desire for success and a deep well of motivation to create better lives for themselves, their families and their communities. The step that we have been able to offer them has been the creation of an opportunity.

In the second half of 2012 we began the draft of what has become the IEFT Rural Entrepreneurship Development (RED) program. The mission of RED is to give every student the tools for business creation and vision to see beyond the limits of their current financial situations. In the program we are planning to put every Form One (7th grade) and Form Two (8th grade) student through a formal entrepreneurship course, culminating in an original business plan to be proposed by the middle of their Form Three (9th grade) year. Real plans are then offered real money; the students will compete for loans for business start-ups. Though a natural goal is project sustainability through loan repayment, we are equally concerned with having the students funnel profits into a personal savings account to be used for education fees so that they can realize their goal of becoming first generation University graduates.

Where we differ from similar programs is in our confidence. We know that our students are not only well prepared academically but are determined and creative enough to take on an ambitious business project. They are trustworthy enough to stay within the guidelines of the program and to seek our support and guidance when they need it. We also know that one of the only sustainable ways to ready our students for a post Orkeeswa world is to have them create the next steps for themselves.

As a contributing member of the Entrepreneurship development team, I have come to see this program not only as a catalyst for personal transformation for our students, but a device with which we deliver innovative products and solutions to the community through those with the energy and ability to do it best, its young people. The years of formal business education in Forms One (7th grade) and Two (8th grade) will go far beyond graphs and numbers, and focus on real issues and potential solutions in the local context.

This is the first year that the program is in full operation, the first year that we have had students old enough to enroll in it, and I am very pleased with the outlook. Through a grant provided by USAID, we have been able to purchase three classroom sets of education materials for our entrepreneurship course, and the prospect of an investment has been a popular conversation for our students. The first group of entrepreneurs, Mbayana and Margaret (whom you will read about below) included, have been incredible successes, and we are looking forward to twenty more business start-ups by June.

-Brady Grimes

Brady Grimes is a 2012 graduate of Texas A & M University, College Station, TX. He received a BS in Ecosystem Management and Horticulture, graduating as the top student in both majors. He began volunteering at Orkeeswa Secondary School in August of 2012. At Orkeeswa, Brady teaches Agriculture and Entrepreneurship and oversees the campus small farm enterprises, including the garden and school livestock. Brady hails from Houston, TX, USA.

The following is a student, Margaret’s perspective on RED.

A Student Looks to her Business Future

I’m Margaret Melkiori. I graduated from Form Four (10th grade) in November of 2012. I am a member of the class of 2014, the first class of students of Orkeeswa School and now I am in the first class of Orkeeswa entrepreneurs. I was motivated to join the Rural Entrepreneurship Development (RED) program so that I can save money for University. My family will not be able to pay for my University fees or to buy my learning materials so I am trying to save money so that I can do that for myself.

I was so excited when I heard that an entrepreneurship program would be at Orkeeswa. I was so glad that I had this chance and that I AM NOW A BUSINESS WOMAN.

My business plan is to buy and sell sugar. I am happy that my business is going well, although there are a few challenges. One challenge has been price fluctuation. I get alot of support from the Orkeeswa family. Teachers and everyone are helping me to overcome any challenges that I face. I would like to give very special thanks to Brady who helped to established the Entrepreneurship program at Orkeeswa. This program is good because it will help students like me to achieve our goal of going to University.

This program has changed my life completely because I have big dreams of not only buying and selling sugar but of owning big companies.

-Margaret Melkiori

Margaret Melkiori is a Form Four (10th grade) graduate, we are anticipating her return to Form Five (11th grade) in early March. Margaret was the 2012 Student Body Vice President and she has been a member of the Kisa Girls’ Leadership program. Throughout November and December she spent her 100 community service hours teaching younger students English at Orkeeswa and she is currently in a nearby city, Moshi doing her Kisa leadership emersion work, teaching younger girls a life skills class.

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