Photograph — thakajordan

“Your child can be the next Mark Zuckerberg.” That’s how you are welcomed to the Journey of Entrepreneurship (JOE) website. JOE is designed to refine the entrepreneurial and financial literacy of “juniors” between the ages of 8 and 12, and teens between 13 and 18, as they are led through a four-phase program of study. Within these steps, kids are taught how to pitch, negotiate, create, love risks, and build a carriage. The kids spend three hours weekly on each phase of the program. JOE, a Singaporean innovation, has now been successfully duplicated in Egypt.

JOE Egypt’s managing partner Nada Helmy told Egyptian Streets that the goal was not to force children into entrepreneurship, but to insert the possibility there while they’re still in the lush of borderless, childless creativity and free-thought. For children, all is possible. And this makes them unconquerable dreamers, a quality that is slowly degraded or hardened by the time they become adults. That’s the way it goes for most people, and that is what JOE curriculum is trying to reverse.

It’s quite possible that children have twice as good, maybe potentially disruptive ideas than many adults, but we live in a continent where parents tell their kids “what are you sitting there thinking about?” or “what are you busy doing?” African kids never feel like their ideas are worth a cent in the adult universe. So, in those who persevere, these original ideas are beaten back and compressed until they’re flat enough for presentation in adulthood, by which time most or all of the originality and zest is lost. JOE not only provides validation for children like that by reaffirming the uniqueness of their ideas, it encourages them to explore everything.

Kids in the program are equipped with an idea journal, in which they’re expected to jot down problems they confront daily in school or at home. At some point in the program, they’re given the green light to start thinking up business solutions to whichever of those problems they choose. Later, in the program’s finale, the kids are expected to fill out the proposed solution, complete with a business logo, slogan, marketing strategy, and finance, culminating in a pitch.

JOE wants children to grow up making decisions that are not tied to money alone. They want kids who are moved by passion and want to impact society in a positive way. Kids who become adults who forgive themselves and others when they fail, who understand the falsity of only celebrating success. Kids are taught to value losing as much as they value winning.

The world we live in is not problem-free and will never be. But our lives will definitely be easier if the generation to come already understands that problems are not put here to derail us; that we’re put here to find solutions for them.

JOE has now been successfully duplicated in Egypt, Kuwait, and Jordan. Considering Egypt also has a similarly off-tangent educational curriculum, Tokkastu, which it had imported from Japan, this merely rehashes what a few facts: Egypt, under president Sisi, is unafraid of new ideas. And more importantly, takes its future very seriously.

By Caleb Ajinomoh.

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