Show learners the bigger picture to keep them in school

I often wonder if we give children a good enough reason for them to attend school besides telling them that they can grow up to become respectable professionals someday. I ask myself this question because of the high school dropout rates in our
country and what seems to be a growing disinterest in classroom activity.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to accompany 9 Grade 12 learners from Katlehong Township to a job shadowing session hosted by Deloitte as part of a campaign to encourage young people to take up careers in actuarial sciences.

I observed as the faces of the learners lit up with excitement when we entered the air conditioned building. For most of these kids, this was their first real exposure to the world of work, especially in an industry that is so out of reach for youth from similar communities to theirs. During the session, one of the learners asked the question “will becoming an actuary help me get my family out of poverty?”

The learner wanted to know how studying and ultimately entering the profession would provide a practical solution to her everyday struggles. Not to say that we must push children towards certain fields of study with the promise of material benefits being the main focus.

But we should rather show them how getting an education is meant to help them solve problems in their immediate surroundings, especially when they have a burning desire or talent to tackle that particular issue.

British-American author and inspirational speaker Simon Sinek believes that great leaders who inspire others to action always start with asking “Why?”. “Those who are able to inspire give people a sense of purpose or belonging that has little to do with any external incentive or benefit to be gained,” Sinek writes.

It is that sense of real purpose we could be missing from the equation. If we can show kids why they are in school then perhaps we can inspire more of them to stay on and see this thing through. If we could make them understand that school is a step towards a greater mission that resonates with their concerns and aspirations, I’m convinced that there would be a shift in perspective.

A 2018 report from the Mitchell Institute in Australia, highlights the importance of bringing children closer to the world of work before they finish school. The report mentioned a few benefits of introducing children to industries early including easier transition into their careers and boosting national productivity.

The returns of grooming purpose-driven learners will help us create the future leadership we need for our country. Young people are restless and hungry for change but we must channel that energy towards development.