What do you get when you have a government committed to implementing a competency-based curriculum, teachers dedicated to creating a hands-on learning experience, and youth with untapped potential? Thousands of secondary school students expertly primed to drive Rwanda’s economy and leave their entrepreneurial mark on the world.

On June 9th, 2018, we got a taste of this reality at our first ever National Student Business Club Competition in Rwanda. Students from 11 schools from across the country came to Kigali to showcase the innovative, eco-friendly, impactful business products that they had designed and manufactured, all while still in secondary school.

The Main Hall in Kicukiro was buzzing with excitement and anticipation. Each school put their products out on display with business plans, financial records, and photographic evidence ready for the five judges to soon make their rounds and score their efforts. Pride, honor, and a cash prize were all on the line, and by the end of the day, everyone would know which Student Business Club would be named the best in Rwanda.

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“The CBC is Becoming a Reality in Our Schools”

The Rwanda Education Board (REB) introduced the Competence Based Curriculum (CBC) to schools across the country to make learning more student-centered and practical. Student Business Clubs were written into the entrepreneurship subject to provide a platform for students to practice starting and running a business with the support of their entrepreneurship teacher and an Educate! District Youth Leader. In order to reach the National Competition, each Student Business Club competed against all the other schools in their district to prove that their enterprise is the most innovative and well-managed.

All Student Business Clubs start with zero capital; now Kicukiro’s Main Hall was brimming with profitable business products. Mr. Claudien Nzitabakuze, REB’s Head of Teacher Development & Management and Career Guidance & Counseling department, was our Guest of Honor and saw, firsthand, how students were capable of putting classroom skills into practice to make a real profit. “Our dreams have come true as far as the implementation and the results of the Competence Based Curriculum are concerned,” he said. “We have reached where we can witness that the CBC is becoming a reality in our schools.”

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Turning Doubt into Belief

Before 2016, secondary school students had limited exposure to practical, relevant entrepreneurship skills. For many, the idea of teenagers making high quality products was a far-fetched dream. Pasqualine, a student from E.S. Muhororo, said that after her club started making products, one of the most persistent hurdles they had to overcome was public perception: "Some customers ignored us because we were students. They said, ‘students can't make the good things.’"

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Rachel, a student at the College of Saint Mary, had a similar experience: her parents didn’t believe that she could produce anything worth buying. When her club advanced to the National Competition, she begged her mother and father to attend the event. Her father, a former Head Teacher and advocate for skills-based education, was skeptical but after coming to the competition to see Rachel’s club he said, "Wow! I wish to be back [working] in education because my dream has been fulfilled! I was really amazed."

And the Winner Is…

The excitement was electric as the Student Business Clubs waited for our Guest of Honor, Mr. Claudien Nzitabakuze, to announce the overall winner of the National Student Business Club Competition. Pasqualine sat with her classmates from E.S. Muhororo, a secondary school from Ngororero that had established the Building Our Bright Future Club. With more than 200 members to generate business ideas and community impact initiatives, together they had earned over 900,000 RWF by selling products such as paper bags, liquid soap, weaved baskets and juice.

Building Our Bright Future Club was judged alongside other clubs by a panel of seasoned entrepreneurs and experts in categories such as sustainability, planning and finance, innovation, and community impact. Pasqualine and her peers from Ngororero were stunned when it was announced that their club had been named the overall winner.

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Students had been preparing for this moment—the crowning of the National Student Business Club Competition winner—since the district level competitions last year. It has been a source of motivation within entrepreneurship classrooms across the country, but on this day, students knew that it wasn’t the end of the road. When they graduate from secondary school, each and every skill they have applied to get to this point will be exactly what they need to start a business, get jobs and drive development in their communities. Our Country Director Donnalee Donaldson said it best:

“To the students here today, you are the future leaders and entrepreneurs of Rwanda. You are the ones who are going to be the fulfillment and the embodiment of Rwanda’s Vision 2020. You are showing that the vision is possible.”

Congratulations to all participants of Educate!’s very first National Student Business Club Competition in Rwanda!

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