The Young Entrepreneur Competition programme established in 2022, has helped five schools where 1,200 students benefitted from financial knowledge and soft skills.
This year, The Riel Hackathon for Kids 2023, an educational programme organised by the Global Shapers Phnom Penh and Tech for Cambodia, was held for the first time for primary school students.
The programme, aimed to equip students with knowledge of financial independence and build foundational skills to solve real-world problems, took place on Sept 17.
Chhour Theangsreng, a representative of Teach for Cambodia, said he has successfully tried and tested running a business idea with just 20,000 riel or $5 with young students.
“This is the very first event in Cambodia, actually this entrepreneur competition programme is only hosted for university students who are majoring in business. But this programme has been opened to kids in primary school. Can you imagine what the future of Cambodia’s economy would look like? Since we have shown that a business can be set up with $5 or 20,000 riel,” Theangsreng said in his opening remark.
Kim Gechpor, a representative of Global Shapers Phnom Penh, noted two main purposes of the Riel Hackathon For Kids. “One, is to promote financial independence knowledge for students, and two, to develop basic skills effectively.
“I believe that financial education is not only for numbers and calculation. The knowledge assists students to gain a better skill in making decisions [by looking at] all angles, which is an essential skill in the 21st century,” she asserted.
Learning should be more than just studying in classrooms, Gechpor said, as it allows students to solve global problems through business ideas which were sparked after acquiring some financial skills.
Four Enterprising Ideas
The training programme was held between February and August 2023, where 4,000 students (from Grade Four to 12) were educated about entrepreneurship and finance knowledge including soft skills like team building, problem solving and decision making.
Selected teams would pitch their business ideas and winners would be awarded with 20,000 riels to run their business idea with the guidance of trainers.
In the morning of Sept 17, four teams comprising pupils from Grade Five and Six from Chroy Chongvar Primary School, Puk Russey Primary School and Wat Mongkol Serey Kien Klaing Primary pitched their business ideas.
The teams took three minutes to present their ideas and five minutes for questions and answers.
The first team made up of Grade 6 students from Chroy Chongvar Primary School, and calling themselves “4 Jasmines' ', produced a popular Khmer dessert, sticky rice balls with coconut and palm sugar, in four colours - white, purple, pink and green.
They used natural colours from flowers and fruits, and banana leaves to wrap the desserts, pointing to eco-friendly packages. The team wanted to produce healthy Khmer desserts that are free from chemicals and not too sweet, in addition to solving plastic waste problems by using banana leaves to make the dessert containers.
Another team, also from the same school, chose to produce moringa face masks for acne treatment, irritated skin and dull dark skin. The idea emerged after they noticed a lack of local facial products, which used locally-available organic material in the market. They also sought to reduce facial product imports.
Team three from Puk Russey Primary School presented the idea of reusing notebook papers by turning them into mini notebooks, so that the unused pages in those books would not be wasted and can be repurposed by students.
Team four or “Superhero” as they called themselves, from Wat Mongkol Serey Kien Klaing Primary, offered two products - pen containers and calendars - by recycling plastic bottles, straws and cardboards.
Khmer Dessert For The Win
The winning team title went to 4 Jasmines for their colourful Khmer dessert in natural packaging, thanks to their idea of reducing unhealthy snacks in schools.
Team leader Fy Safira, 12, a grade 6 student, said they chose this business idea as they wanted to promote local desserts among young Cambodians and to ensure that people consumed healthy food.
“We want the young generation to know more about Khmer desserts. We also hope that the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport would ensure that schools do not sell food that is too sweet or instant noodles,” she said.
Explaining that there are two choices of flavour for the dessert - just palm sugar or palm sugar with coconut, Safira suggested that a dessert pack of five sticky rice balls would be sold for 1,000 riel.
Safira said her school does not sell Khmer sticky rice balls but hoped to see more traditional desserts sold in her school and other schools. “Because my school doesn’t sell traditional Khmer desserts, I have to travel to the market to get them.”
Meanwhile, she explained that her team beat four other teams before participating in the finals where they met the other three finalists.
“I think we will put this business to practice because we want Khmer citizens to have a livelihood. Moreover, we also can help female food sellers by selling our product wholesale for their stalls,” Safira said.
Her teammate, Heng Angkeavotey agreed that there should be more Khmer dessert sellers so that young people would know about their traditional food.
“There is a shortage of Khmer dessert sellers. But there are a lot of imported snacks from other countries,” the 12-year-old student said.
Their teacher, Pan Soumey, who teaches English, said entrepreneurial and financial education plays a fundamental role in shaping young people’s minds, especially in imparting financial knowledge on how to manage their finances and save money from an early age.
“If the ministry can include this programme in school curricula and taught by experts from primary school itself, it would be a great thing. I think it would be more beneficial for students in terms of soft skills development besides Khmer, Maths, Physics, Biology and other subjects,” she opined.