S’yadudula Young Entrepreneurial Minds (SYEM) is a Durban University of Technology (DUT) student-led non-profit organisation (NPO) that seeks to promote and cultivate the spirit of entrepreneurship in primary and high school learners. The NPO was founded in 2019 and is led by Pikolomzi Qaba, a master’s student from the Department of Applied Management at DUT.

Qaba elaborates on what initially inspired the creation of the project, “SYEM believes that meaningful and relevant education is about far more than curriculum content and passing grades, especially considering rising unemployment among school leavers and even university graduates.” The group mainly targets primary school learners and live by the Xhosa saying “Bagotya besebatsha.” This phrase highlights the importance of teaching and learning at a young age, as it makes an analogy of how young children can be compared to young tree saplings which are easier to mould and bend than an older tree.

The project aims to encourage and teach young people how to start and run successful businesses. It enables primary school learners to start and manage their businesses or cooperatives within their schools and communities. The SYEM achieves this by sharing the relevant entrepreneurial skills with the learners in their programmes and encouraging a culture of financial independence. “Society needs to recognise the importance of nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit as early as primary school and progress through all levels of education,” states Qaba. He further elaborates on SYEM’s mission, “Ours is to encourage, motivate and drive innovative entrepreneurial thinking and a change of attitude among the youth to consider self-employment as a job option and to empower rural and township economies through entrepreneurship creation as a source of income and employment.”

The participating learners and schools get to put the theoretical knowledge that they are taught by SYEM to the test, as they are given the tools and resources to start their small businesses. Some of the skills taught by SYEM include business management skills, financial literacy skills and marketing skills. Learners are also encouraged to explore social entrepreneurship and to develop a business or product that would have a broader social benefit. Furthermore, the presence of these small businesses in these under-resourced communities contributes to their economic growth.

The SYEM was awarded first prize in the student category at the 2021 Community Engagement Showcasing and Pitching Awards. The project was awarded a generous cash prize of R30 000 to support its community engagement work. Qaba says that this prize money was fundamental in increasing the reach of their work, “It has assisted in buying equipment that will keep the project moving, this includes things like laptops and a projector for presentations and training for the participating schools. This will further assist in driving more awareness and visiting more schools and unleashing more capabilities and innovative mindsets.”

In the future, SYEM hopes to acquire more funding so that they can extend their projects to other schools and communities. It is also their wish to have an annual competition which would allow all the students under their tutelage to compete against each other for cash prizes and other business incentives.

Picture: (1) The SYEM Team installing an air quality monitor at Badi Secondary School in preparation for a social entrepreneurship initiative (2) A Food Garden started by the SYEM at Nqabara Secondary School for agricultural entrepreneurship.

Tracy Khuzwayo


  1. if you want to explore potential opportunities regarding the agriculture business or Agri-skill training, please feel free to contact Confucius Institute at DUT ML Sultan campus

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Visit Us
Follow Me
Scroll to Top