education mindset

Education Can Stop the Vicious Poverty Mindset

Ozii Obiyo
December, 2015
by Ozii Obiyo, Consultant at BTS

Originally posted here.

Money can be a very personal and uncomfortable topic to discuss with a stranger. However, when the person sitting across from you genuinely cares and is equipped with the capability to help, the uneasiness slowly fades away and is replaced with open and honest discussion. Through this discussion it is possible for participants to share knowledge, and, with knowledge as a foundation, ideas are sparked. These ideas then turn into goals backed up with plans.

Money Mondays is a financial literacy workshop carefully designed to turn basic financial knowledge into actionable plans that deliver the highest impact for people in low-income communities. The program content was developed by AVO Vision and is sponsored by South African Brewers (SAB), in partnership with Better SA, a leading volunteer organization in South Africa.


I had a chance to experience this workshop first hand. There were 30 participants present at the Thusong Youth center, in the heart of the Alexandra Township in Johannesburg, South Africa. The session started with the facilitator, Tlou (pictured above), encouraging participants to share memories of money, both good and bad. As expected, the room fell silent as no one volunteered any stories. In response to the silence, Tlou shared a personal story of her own about how an incident that caused her to lose her entire month’s salary motivated her to get a better grasp on managing her finances wisely. Her telling her story accomplished two things. First, she showed vulnerability which allowed the participants to empathize and relate with her. Second, she earned credibility because she not only highlighted the expertise she’s developed over the years; she also affirmed her commitment to ensure that they walked out of the session with a new mindset regarding money.

The workshop touched on budgeting, financial goal setting, different bank account types with their advantages and disadvantages, the most common financial scams and cyber theft, as well as how to boost your income and cut costs, basics of insurance and types of policies, and how to use credit responsibly.

Later in the day, the participants were joined by finance professionals from SAB. The finance professionals acted as coaches and provided a second set of eyes on the personal budgets the participants created as well as their short- and long-term financial goals. As you can imagine, the room was abuzz with idea exchanges. The relaxed, fun and informal tone made discussing tough topics easier and it wasn’t unusual to hear groups burst into laughter.

After their one-on-one sessions, the coaches all felt they were having an immediate impact and that the participants were responding well to their recommendations. After probing them further, a majority of the coaches pointed out that the openness and keen desire of the participants to learn a new concept and immediately apply that concept was a sign that success is just around the corner for them. The participants all seemed eager to turn the recommendations they’d gotten into actions. It was clear that there had been a switch of mindset through their choice of words when describing what they would do next.

The coaches also pointed out a few potential challenges that could derail the participants from achieving their financial objectives. The challenge most commonly mentioned was accountability. To address this challenge head-on, one of the coaches set an appointment with his group to connect a month later to measure their progress in regard to their short-term goals. In addition, the group agreed upon a regular cadence to ensure they hold each other accountable.

One of the coaches’ big takeaways was that we all share similar aspirations for life no matter our environment. We can all have big bold goals; we just need to put together a plan of action and commit to following through no matter the obstacles that may come our way. Some of us are simply lucky to be born into more conducive environment that gives us access to amazing resources that we may sometimes take for granted, like electricity and clean water.

A couple of the ladies at the workshop shared with the class that their long-term goal is to build a school someday. The authority and confidence with which they spoke really inspired me. By attending the workshop, they were taking the right steps towards their goal.

Education is the critical key that can stop the vicious cycle poverty and uplift generations. An educated majority can be the catalyst for progress and positive change. Governments, societies, families and organizations that prioritize education usually benefit from the investment.

I am privileged to be part of an organization that dedicates resources to educating members of their community. If you want to drive lasting change, figuring out ways that you can transfer some of the skill and knowledge you’ve acquired over the years to someone less fortunate allows you to impact generations to come.

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