Money talk should start in the classroom

Wednesday March 18 2020

Children are taken through a financial literacy class. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


I had not wrapped my head around school curriculums until Muna completed her first year in kindergarten.

GB and I were at her school on Wednesday for the parent-teacher conference. Like most kindergartens, Muna’s curriculum is Montessori – it focuses on learning through play. Montessori is different from Matiangi’s competency-based curriculum (CBC).

(I know we should not compare our kids to other kids, but for the sake of illustrating my point here, allow me to draw parallels.)

Our neighbours have a girl Muna’s age. She, too, began school this year but studied under CBC.

I noticed a difference in the curriculums as the girls crayoned in our living room: Muna did not master the alphabet in the A-B-C-D order.

They began with the lower case sounds that have curves – c, a, s – then graduated to those with sticks – h, b, d, p – then carried on until they covered all 26 sounds in lower case. They were not taught how to write.



The neighbour’s kid mastered the alphabet as A-B-C-D. She also knows how to write her name, and can recognise sounds in upper and lower case. She can count to 20, Muna to 10.

I was worried Muna is lagging behind then I remembered the poor girl is only four – she has her entire school life ahead of her to crack things under CBC.

Matiang’i says our children will not master content for the sake of passing exams. They will be moulded as well-adjusted citizens under seven core areas of life skills.

I hope there is practical and comprehensive material on financial literacy. The basic principles I want Muna and her generation to master are these:

Principles of budgeting: Budgeting is such a crucial money management tool. The CBC should show our children how to draft and maintain a monthly budget.

It will be even better if they are given a little money to spend on a lengthy budget and see how they will critically think through this real-life problem of tightened purse strings.

The CBC is hot on digital literacy. They can start the children off with manual hand-written budgets, then upgrade them to budgeting apps like Wallet and Spending Tracker.

Principles of saving: CBC should sing it like the National Anthem so our children never forget it – “the first line item in your budget should be savings.” This age-old principle of paying yourself first will forever hold.

I always imagined the only way to save money is in a bank. 8-4-4 taught us this.

The CBC ought to expose our kids to the savings options available in our market: insurance companies, your chama, the stock market, M-Shwari, the government and so on.

Principles of investing: Every instrument that gives you a saving option also gives you an investment option; our children should hear this from CBC. No investment is out of reach for any disciplined saver.

I imagine CBC asking our children to collaborate, register a company and present their company’s investment ideas to a panel of real angel investors. "Shark Tank" style. The compelling ideas are financed for execution.

Debt culture: CBC ought to show what debt looks like, by inviting to the classroom ordinary Kenyans to share their experiences with debt and financiers.

These Kenyans should bring along their balance sheets, bank statements, profit and loss accounts, to crunch numbers with the children.

Ultimately, we want our children to build good debt and avoid bad debt. They should know that if you cannot afford something right now, you could: (a) Work harder so you can make more money (b) Save to buy it later (c) Forget about having it.

The curriculum should support options (a) and (b) because they demand creativity, patience and innovation.

Skills that inform their work ethics and work attitudes for the long-term. Option (c) crushes dreams and ambition.

Entrepreneurial mindset: Graduating with degree papers then waiting at home to be employed in a ‘proper’ job is a mindset of the 20th century. Forget image – you may not have a job but you can work.

The CBC should encourage our children to work on their ideas. Ideas are the currency of the 21st currency; they offer solutions to everyday problems.

We also have a ready marketplace called social media that trades in this currency of ideas.

The question CBC should constantly ask our children to ask themselves is, ‘What ideas can I come up with; what can I sell to these people roaming the streets of social media?’

Bett Kinyatti is a certified accountant with ACCA and a former financial auditor.