By Silindzelwe Nxumalo
Vulamasango High School has once again been crowned the 2023 Junior Achievements (JA) national champions. The high school was first crowned in 2020 and on Thursday they were crowned national champions for the second time walking away with the prize of E10 000.
The national competition followed the regionals which saw six JA-affiliated schools compete for the national champion position. The school built a robotic bird which was the project that won them this position. Vulamasango High School will represent the country in Rwanda on December 6, 2023, to compete with other African young pupils.
JA Executive Director (ED) Phetsile Masilela said all the pupils who had been competing, winners included, were expected to start their businesses individually after they completed school to create employment for themselves and other young emaSwati. She mentioned that the national champions of the national expo had shown resilience and excellence in the African region consistently.
“This has been evidenced by remaining in the top 3 for 8 years in a row. We do not doubt that our approach and model is bringing out the best in emaSwati and globally,” she said. She stated that for 2023, they had made climate change solutions a priority so they could support the country and the globe in coming up with new solutions faced by UNICEF, the Canadian Embassy, EEC, and the Eswatini Environmental Authority.
“We are proud of the new ideas that we saw today and are quite confident that they will help us as a country. To all the head teachers and teachers who have pioneered this programme in their schools, thank you. This would not be possible without you,” she said. She added that they were happy to see pupils continuing with their savings skills and increasing their investment for the future through the school cooperatives model and the EswatiniBank Siyakhula Account.
She stated that this had been through support from the Ministry of Commerce Industry and Trade, Ministry of Education and Training, Republic of China in Taiwan (through the Ministry of Economic Planning), Lubane Savings and Credit Cooperative, and the private sector and EswatiniBank.
“The aim is to promote the culture of saving among students regardless of the level of income and background through the formation of savings cooperatives in schools,” she said.
She further urged all partners to work together towards closing the digital gap so that even children in remote areas could access all resources equally.
She said they were also proud of the growth of the Business Development Department which had shown that there are at least 1500 businesses that had been born from the school’s entrepreneurship programme.
“That is why JAE has worked together with other partners to ensure that young people receive start–up capital to sustain the economy. These are the Taiwan Embassy, Ministry of Commerce Industry and Trade, Mbabane City Council, UNICEF, MTN Eswatini, Youth Fund, FINCORP, Imbeleko Foundation, UNFPA, SEDCO, and EswatiniBank SME,” she said.
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She added that they were also currently recruiting all JA alumni, so they could keep track of the investment that all partners had made into youth empowerment.
She also encouraged all JA Alumni to register on the online platform so they could engage further in their growth. “To all the companies that have supported us to attach pupils for job-shadowing this year, thank you very much.
Please note that we will be expanding this programme in the coming fiscal year so that we attach more students,” said Masilela. The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade Principal Secretary (PS) Siboniso Nkambule said their mandate as the government was to ensure that youth participation in the economic recovery of the country was prioritized. He stated that JA Eswatini had been seen playing a huge role in financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and work readiness empowerment.
“This kind of education is the one that will enforce a sustained economic recovery for the country and the continent at large. There is no better time to train young people, especially adolescents on leadership skills and success,” he said. The PS said the instilling of this knowledge at a younger age would ensure that they had great leaders in the future who would lead with power and integrity.
He further congratulated all the schools that were participating in the competition for their perseverance and commitment. He added that the Eswatini Government, through the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Trade, had made JA programmes a priority in its structure and would continue to support the organization.
Nkambule commended the Ministry of Economic Planning for the financial support they had given to the organization over the years which had seen thousands of out-of-school young people being supported with financial and business skills. “These are funds from the Republic of China in Taiwan (Taiwan Embassy),” he said. He further applauded the Ministry of Education and Training for playing a critical role in allowing this programme to be implemented in 85 high schools and 20 primary schools in the current fiscal year. “This is good because it ensures that even schools in the rural areas do participate in the entrepreneurship and financial literacy programme,” he said.