BE YOUR OWN BOSS
WE HAVE come to a part of the year when parents and students throughout the country are queuing up at banks to settle school fees, or at educational institutions to get students enrolled or registered for another academic year.
I do not know about other centres but in Goroka where I live, there have been very long snaking lines outside banks this week, such that even those who wanted to do regular banking have simply given up. I am sure that similar crowds have been flooding schools and colleges this week. I am sure that stationary suppliers have also been very busy serving their customers.
As I have been standing in such queues, my mind has gone out to those who have been not been fortunate to continue their education this year, particularly those who have been left behind by the system at grade 8, 10 and 12. I do not know how many students are in that category, but my gut feeling is that it comprises the majority of students who were in the above grades in 2009.
For the 13, 000 or so who did their grade 12 last year, I am aware that only around 3, 000 will be making into the country's public tertiary institutions this year. My guess is also that another 3,000 might be able to continue their education at various private institutions offering tertiary level education. So, maybe 50% of last year's grade 12 students will be in some institution this year. The other 50% face the prospect of returning to their homes, wherever those homes may be.
As regular readers of this column will no doubt know by now, I am a proponent of self-employment, that is to say, business. I promote the idea of becoming your own boss through starting your own business, rather than minding somebody else's business. I am glad to report that I have been inundated with text messages, telephone calls, emails and letters from readers who have provided me with positive feedback. The message I have been getting is that the articles have scratched where Papua New Guineans have been itching. The articles have raised the motivation level of many people who have entrepreneurial mindsets, with many reporting from different parts of the country that they have started taking positive steps towards becoming their own bosses. I am very encouraged by that.
In today's article, I would like to digress a bit from my usual way of writing and address the question, "Further Education or Business?" This is a message specifically aimed at the 6, 000 grade 12 drop -outs of last year, but it may be of interest to many others who have been contemplating doing further studies because they feel they need a qualification to get a job. The alternative I would like to offer is for such young people to seriously consider going into business instead of thinking about gaining more knowledge in school and looking for jobs after that.
If you have not realized by now, let me start by showing you this: Traditional school teaches people to expect paid jobs after graduating with a certificate, diploma or degree. It is a system designed to produce workers or employees whose vocation is to mind other people's businesses. It is a system that educates people who go out to make other people (their employers) rich with their knowledge, skills and strength.
I am not against education. I believe the country needs highly educated people. I am a product of the system. So I appreciate it, and in fact promote academic excellence in my books and seminars. But what the majority of the young people who are left behind the system do with their lives is of concern to me. I feel that the system raises too many expectations which cannot be met. For instance, all students expect to get jobs, whereas as only a few jobs exist in reality. The system does not adequately prepare people to live productive lives. The result is a very large army of educated but unemployed people who are disappointed and very angry with the rest of society.
Given this situation, my message special to young people who have been unemployed, and those who will be joining the ranks this year, is that they need to stop being disappointed that they have been left behind, and start seeing life more positively. School as you have known it up to now may stop, but life goes on. You not being able to continue is not the end of life. In fact, see it as life giving you a more challenging opportunity. I know that the question that is burning in your heart is, "What do I do, now that I am out?"
My answer is that you can still make a comfortable living with what you have gotten out of the system so far. You can succeed in life with the knowledge you already possess. You don't need a college diploma or university decree to succeed in life. In fact, as far as classroom knowledge goes, what you need to succeed is 1,2,3 and A,B,C. In other words, if you can communicate in English and can count, that is all matters. Possessing a grade 10 or 12 education is more than enough.
I would like to point out to you that you have what it takes to succeed in life. Most people think that they cannot amount to anything in life because they don't have money. But if you really think about it, you already possess the basic ingredients for success. "What are these ingredients?" you might ask. Let me show you what you have.
Firstly, you have time, one of the most precious but underutilized and misused assets which everyone in the world possessed in equal measure. People in Daru have 24 hours in a day, like everybody in Manus, Vanimo and Samarai. Not being able to make it into a school year and spending the cream of your time in a classroom means that you now all the time for yourself. Being young means that time is on your side. Just imagine the kind of life you can live in the next 20 years if you start using your time wisely starting this year.
Secondly, you have a young and healthy body with untapped physical strength. You can misuse it by throwing your weight around, filling it with drugs and alcohol in disillusionment or you can apply it productively and make a living with it.
Thirdly, you have a sound mind - another important but underutilized and misused asset. Scientists say that the average person uses up to 10% of their brain capacity between the cradle and the grave. Ninety percent goes to the grave unused, and becomes food for maggots. That is a complete waste of potential and power. If you can use it by thinking hard, deep and wide, you can come up with ideas that can transform both your life and that of the society.
You now have a mind which has become the repository of a lot of knowledge you did not have before - probably more than your parents and all your relatives who have not had the privilege of getting an education. Albert Einstein, who was considered a 'slow learner ' by his teachers but ended up becoming one of the most brilliant scientists, made this statement: " The mind that opens up to receive new ideas never return to its original size." Your mind has been opened, stretched and enlarged by the information and ideas you have gained from school. Such a mind is more powerful than the most advanced computer.
Finally, if you have a piece of land somewhere, that is another important asset. In fact, seeing that land is the basis of wealth, you are already wealthy if you have some. Size doesn't matter; productive use does. The challenge is how to convert that piece of dirt into cash.
So, you have time, health and strength, a sound and informed mind, and land (if you have some). Not being in a classroom means that you have the chance to combine these resources and carve out for yourself a sustainable and even lavish livelihood by starting a small business. Don't worry about money; it will come. If you just use your time and mind to come with imaginative solutions to problems or needs that are around you, you should attract lot of money, because today's economy runs on ideas.
Look around you. People who have the most money today are those who run their own businesses. If you care to dig deeper into their lives, you will realize that most of them dropped out and do not have university decrees, while many are illiterate! Most started with little if any money or land. They simply use their time, minds and strength. Money simply became the end product of them combining these invisible assets. When they had money, they converted it into visible things like properties, houses, cars, etc.
My encouragement to young people left behind the education system is that you need to seriously starting a business instead of going back to school. If you have some money to pay your fees, just take a long pause before joining those who are paying their way back into the classroom and tying their time down for another year.
Think a few years ahead of you. You pay to get into school with the aim of getting a diploma or decree. After getting that paper into your hands, you will have to look for a job. If you are lucky, you might succeed in getting one (and a high-paying one if you are very, very lucky!); if not, you end up with a paper but literally be on the streets with no job. That is one option.
The other option is for you to start a business this year with your school fee money. If you lose it in a failed venture, it would be the same as you continuing with school and not getting a job. It would make much difference. If you don't get a job, you lose all the money you have paid in fees over the years.
However, if you succeed, you will be a few years ahead of your cohort financially, probably by thousands or even hundreds of thousands of kina! Which is more exciting and promising: further education or business? I will let you decide.
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