Parents, schools, universities have role in developing entrepreneurship

Childhood is marked by an innovative spirit that is lost over time because we do not nurture our inherent free thinking.

This is according to Goosain Solomon, a lecturer in the Department of Business Management in Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences. He was a speaker at last week’s Symposium on Entrepreneurship for Human Development, hosted by the University under the auspices of its HOPE Project.

Goosain Solomon

Mr Goosain Solomon.

Solomon said it was essential to develop independence from an early age.

“Children are innovative but often the schooling they receive leaves them regimented. Entrepreneurship is about getting up and going somewhere. While you are sitting, you won’t achieve much. But when you get up and go, you can help yourself.”

Solomon said that this meant that educational curricula needed to be improved to “stimulate entrepreneurial activity”. Parents also needed to encourage their children to be innovative.

“Sometimes children are restricted at home. As parents, we need to rethink what we do with our children. When they come up with new ideas we shouldn’t tell them, ‘No, you are going to embarrass me’,” said Solomon.

Stellenbosch University was recently among 15 higher education institutions that participated in the Global University Entrepreneurship Student Spirit Survey (Guesss). Solomon said that it was essential to understand entrepreneurial awareness among university students to encourage business growth.

“With this survey we wanted to get to grips with students’ entrepreneurial behaviour, exposure to entrepreneurship and if they understood what it is,” said Solomon.

“We found that South African students are relatively aware of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurial activity is not that high, though, and they need more exposure to business people. They are also not aware of what the government is doing to promote entrepreneurship.”

As a result, only 5% of local students surveyed intend to start their own business once graduating from university, but 28% of the local sample said that they would start businesses later. They wanted to first gain experience and exposure with established companies.

“Also, very few students are interested in following the family business. A key barrier is that it is limiting to their career path,” said Solomon.

He said that entrepreneurship needed more support to ensure local success. Information dissemination should be followed up with opportunities to start businesses and then support centres should be available to enhance entrepreneurship.

“We need to identify the future and make the hard decisions now on how we are going to get there. It’s about opening up our thinking,” said Solomon.