Teen Club and Barclays Take Life Skills to a New Level!

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The following post is courtesy of Jessica Charles, a Peace Corps Volunteer and Gaborone Teen Club Volunteer:

Teen Club members playing Monopoly with a Barclays staff member.
Teen Club members enjoying an entertaining and educational game of Monopoly with a Barclays staff member. (Photo courtesy of Ed Pettitt)

 Teen Club and Barclays Take Life Skills to a New Level!


On 28th March, 50 teenage members of the Gaborone Teen Club, a peer support group for HIV-positive adolescents, gathered at the Botswana-Baylor Children’s Clinical Centre of Excellence (COE) for a presentation on financial literacy cosponsored by the Barclays Community Partnerships Programme. Though a presentation on money management might not be the most exciting Saturday morning activity a teenager could imagine, the Botswana-Baylor COE Teen Club staff and Barclays representatives managed to make the theme of the day engaging, practical and even fun.

When I arrived, the clinic halls were abuzz with the energy of the Teen Club members, adult volunteers, bank presenters and Botswana-Baylor COE staff. By 9:30am, the warm-up activities and icebreakers had finished and the kids were ready to begin learning about financial literacy skills.

“Do you know what we’ll be talking about today?” I asked one of the girls.
“Um… HIV?” she replied.

An educated guess since we were here for Teen Club, one of the largest support groups for HIV-positive adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa with over 300 members throughout Botswana, founded in 2005.

“Well, HIV is really important but today we’re learning about something different,” I said.
“Oh, I know! Abstinence!” said another boy.
“Nope-not this time,” I smiled. “This time we’re talking about money!”
“Really?!” the kids looked fascinated.
“Yup-how to get it and how to save and use it in a smart way,” I replied.
“Good – ‘cuz I need money!” someone shouted.

Maybe the kids were humoring me but I think more of the surprise came from the novelty of the day’s theme. For most Batswana children, life skills lessons typically revolve around the traditional health themes of HIV, abstinence, risk reduction, teenage pregnancy, etc. But as Botswana develops and grows as a nation, the concept of “life skills” is also evolving:

“The one thing that’s really great is the fact that financial literacy is now considered a life skill,” said Yodit Molosi, the Community Relations Manager at Barclays Bank and one of the day’s presenters. “We have to prepare the children for the work… we have to prepare them for money management. For me it’s important to be able to share [these lessons] and it’s good that people are finally recognizing finances as a life skill… not just things like teen pregnancy and drugs and alcohol.”

Ms. Molosi and ten of her colleagues from Barclay’s Bank led a dynamic and interactive session on financial literacy for the adolescents in Teen Club. The presentation covered a number of important money management topics including savings, loans, credit, debt, insurance, consumer rights, contracts, and more.

Instead of merely lecturing about these topics, the bank employees got their young audience involved by asking the teens for definitions, eliciting examples, and encouraging them to ask questions. Some questions were answered by the staff but many times the inquiry was thrown back to the group so the audience of teens could brainstorm answers and help one another work through understanding the financial concepts.

Participants giving correct answers were asked to provide their names and then praised for participation and their intelligent responses.

“It was great to meet the kids and during the presentation they were amazing!” said Emmanuel Kgantuno, a Project Support Analyst for Barclays. “They listen… they answer… and they are so informed! If they can implement some of what we told them about budgeting and saving I’ll be very happy.”

Mr. Kgantumo maintains the energy and momentum of this session as we sit together on the floor of the classroom. It is now 11:00am and all the chairs have been cleared out so that the teens can enjoy the second part of the morning: playing money games!

South African Monopoly, Electronic Banking Monopoly and Cash Flow are three games that have been selected to give the teens a chance to practice the financial skills they’ve just learned in the presentation. As they play, the Barclays employees and Teen Club adult volunteers engage their group members in discussions about money management and review the financial themes and skills the youth have just learned.

One of the adult volunteers is Bakani Johnson, a Motswana social worker who has been working at the Botswana-Baylor COE for nearly two-and-a-half years. Mrs. Johnson works closely with the Baylor-Baylor COE adolescent population and, in turn, sees the acute need for them to develop these financial skills:

“Looking at Batswana kids we don’t talk about cash, even parents don’t talk about it… and so many Batswana get into debt. But this [event gives kids] a good starting base on how they can save money and not get into fights. You know kids here always say ‘Borrow me 5 pula.’ and when then don’t pay it back they get into fights with each other.”

In addition to teaching about saving money, Mrs. Johnson also believes that empowering youth with budgeting skills and financial accountability strategies are essential to her work. Now that these skills have been explained, Mrs. Johnson plans to incorporate some of the money management lessons into her counseling sessions:

“[In Botswana] there’s a culture of ‘I deserve to be given money’. But we never ask what the kids do with their money… we just dish out the money and never look into what they are buying…. I plan to start talking a little about money at the end of my [counseling] sessions. This is a start. I hope we can continue with this… maybe even an orientation for the larger Baylor staff on how to help the kids budget. And how to say ‘No’ when they ask for money they don’t need.”

While all of this feedback was exciting and inspiring, perhaps the best sign of the day’s success came from the teens themselves:

“The presentation was good. I think a lot of the kids learned that they should start making their own money box to save money for themselves so that when they grow up they can open their own accounts.”

This same youth, one of the teen leaders of the Gaborone Teen Club, continued to tell me about the lessons he learned from the presentation but when I asked him about the games his face lit up.

“The games were great! The games teach us how to make money like through buying houses [which we can then use] for renting. Before today I haven’t been saving money so now I’m going to make my own money box so I can save… I want to buy clothes for myself… and maybe my own house.”

In addition to learning all these important lessons, some of the teens experienced financial success in the games they played. The winner of a game of electronic banking monopoly, for example, proudly displayed her earnings as the group was dismissed for lunch:

“I won with P18,740! I used my money wisely and I didn’t use all my credit. I learned that I should use money wisely in real life too.”

Her friend chipped in to confirm these messages:

“Yeah, we learned that we should buy things that help us earn money… like a house that we can get rent from. [We also learned] how to use money wisely: don’t just buy anything that crosses your mind… don’t say to yourself ‘I have to have it’ and then not think about the future.”

Presentations, games, colorful play money and a stack of important life lessons – the Botswana-Baylor COE certainly knows how to spice up a serious topic and personalize it for the lives of their teenage clients. And, of course, the lessons don’t stop on Saturday morning:

“Teen Club is a place where tomorrow’s leaders are born,” one teen told me. “It helps to give us courage so that one day we’ll be productive leaders in our country.”

Ed Pettitt, Adolescent Support Officer at the Botswana-Baylor COE and Coordinator of Teen Club, had this to say about the event:

“We are very grateful for the partnership we have with Barclays and look forward to expanding the money management and financial planning components of our life skills curriculum. We also hope to implement similar financial literacy events at our satellite Teen Clubs in Francistown, Molepolole and Mochudi. The Gaborone Teen Club members clearly enjoyed the day’s activities and were able to demonstrate the knowledge and skills they gained through the presentations by Barclays staff during the games that they played afterwards. Together, Teen Club and Barclays are helping to build a brighter, and more financially secure, future for Botswana’s HIV-positive adolescents.”

Productive leaders with strong money management skills and financial intelligence – I’d say that this was a successful Saturday morning. Fun activities with a powerful impact, what more could you ask for?