For over a century, we have been told that education is everything. We have been told that the best thing you can give to your children is education. The education mentioned is the formal one.
“Go to school, work hard, get good grades and everything will be fine,” we are always told.
Many parents feel a sense of achievement once their kids graduate and most parents, that’s where education ends.
“I paid school fees for you. I took you to the best universities and schools, now use that education to make this world your own,” we hear that every day during graduation parties.
We have had that model of formal education for over a century in Uganda and it seems, it isn’t working as expected. With advancements in technology, the limitations of this education model will further be exposed.
Formal education is very important and I applaud parents who can do everything in the world that is legal to educate their offspring. It is the right thing to do but something else needs to be done. Last week, Bulaimu Muwanga Kibirige, commonly known as BMK sent me a photo of the opening ceremony of his Hotel Africana in Lusaka, Zambia.
He has been working on it for a while. Before the end of the year, he will open another in Moroto and plans are underway to build others in West Nile. These are projects that will outlive him and if managed properly, will create wealth for some of his great-grandchildren that aren’t even yet born.
The creation of generational wealth is one of the things lacking in our formal educational model. Previously in Africa, this model existed. Children, albeit, male ones inherited a lot of wealth in terms of land and passed it on to the next generation. Today’s generation has been good in mismanagement. We have created a culture of get-rich-quick!
The introduction of formal education less emphasized generational wealth. Parents focus on only looking for fees and send kids to the best schools. As soon as the parents die, all the wealth is gone. I have heard many stories of highly-educated people who inherited wealth good enough to build on it but are now paupers.
Their parents focused more on formal education and didn’t do much on training them with the skills necessary to maintain these would-be legacy projects. During his speech in Lusaka, BMK mentioned his relatives and children who had worked hard to build the hotel and are involved in its management.
That is the kind of education that Ugandan and indeed African children need to get, on top of formal education. We cannot build wealth that is sustainable if everyone is going to start from zero, just like most graduates.
In Uganda, most university graduates without any form of wealth to inherit will spend a few years looking for a job, then another few years when they are underemployed.
When they eventually get a job, they will spend the first few years indulging in all sorts of things wasting the little resources they can use to create wealth mainly because they don’t know anything about money.
By the time they start thinking seriously about money and investing, they have kids that need to be looked after and will spend the rest of their lives stressing over school fees. I have noticed that most parents who don’t have kids with chronic diseases are more stressed about fees than anything else.
When graduates fail to get jobs, parents enroll them in postgraduate schools yet, perhaps, what is more important is the informal education these people need to move forward.
If you are a parent who has built rentals for example, how do you now start training your university graduate daughter to manage them?
If she doesn’t get involved when you are still alive, she will not be able to all of a sudden learn how to manage tenants when you are dead. Most likely, it will become cumbersome for her and she may end up selling them and, perhaps, lose everything.
She will not train her kids in any real impactful wealth creation and the cycle will continue leading to generations of poor people. If you care about generational wealth, just the way it was before the introduction of formal education, you need to provide the necessary training children need to carry over.
We can learn from BMK and some Asian businesspeople.
The writer is a communication and visibility consultant.