Banks, good. Beds, bad.

When it comes to teaching children about business, it’s difficult to teach complicated lessons. The entire lesson needs to be summed up in as few words as possible so the children can remember it. Up until last weekend, the youngest people I had taught business concepts to were ‘freshmen’ in high school. But Antoinette, a volunteer 10 minutes from me, was hosting an event at her site, both teaching American culture and also playing soccer, and she asked volunteers in the area if we wanted to teach something from our sector of expertise. The age group I was assigned was 13 to 14 year old girls and I found it difficult to try to find something that would resonate with everyone as well as interesting enough they would remember it and use in everyday life.

Something the Malagasy people fear most is banks in Madagascar. And there’s nothing to blame them for that. There’s a lot of corruption all over this country. The higher ranking the official, the more likely that they oare corrupt and receiving money on the side. Which is why people fear the banks so much. They assume if they put all their money in one place outside of their house, an official can steal it without them knowing, and they will never get it back. Many times instead of placing money in the bank, they will place it under their mattresses, and this opens the door for robberies in a household. So my lesson to the 13 and 14 year olds were banks and their advantages. Banks are not the bad people, but they’re trying to help develop the country and provide a place for saving money and earning interest. This is a complicated concept for the Malagasy people. Many don’t even know that by placing money into a bank account, they can earn on that amount and get interest.

My game consisted of giving fake money to each individual person, and I acted as the bank. Each “month”they were given their monthly wages for their profession and they put the money into a bank account where they “earned” interest. I brought along product I was trying to sell. A bouncy ball for 200 ariary and a pencil for 400 ariary. After four months of saving their money in the banks, they had enough money to “buy” both items.

During the entire process, I had the children keep their fake money. At the end before they “purchased” the toys, I asked how much money they had in their hands.

“400 ariary!” they yelled.
“And if you didn’t place your money in the bank, how much money do you have?” I asked.
“400 ariary!” They answered.
“Is that enought to buy the pencil and the bouncy ball?”
“No,” they answered, solemnly shaking their heads.
“But if you had placed the money in the bank, how much money would you have had?” I asked, pointing to the “bank statement” we had added each time they “made” a deposit.
“600 ariary……….600 ariary!” they answered, getting very excited.
“Is that enough?”
“Yes! Yes yes yes!” they cheered.
“So what is the lesson for today?”
“If you want to be rich, place money in a bank.” one of them more vocal girls answered.
“Yes, so the lesson today, banks good. Beds bad.”

I hoped they would remember this lesson and I was overjoyed they did. I ran into two of the girls in my village in market day this past week. They greeted me with saying “Salama Christina. Mitadidy izahay. Tsara ny banky. Ratsy ny fandriana,” before heading off on their way.

Translation…”Hello Christina! We remember. Banks are good, beds are bad.”

Nailed it!

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My group of kids

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Teaching my lesson: put your money in a bank.

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