SDG 4, “Quality Education” aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030. Achieving sustainable development requires education, which is a fundamental human right. Only if all stakeholders, including businesses, commit themselves to advance the education aim will we be able to empower girls, stop climate change, fight inequality, and eliminate extreme poverty.
In 2018, 258 million children were out of school. 750 million adults worldwide lacked basic literacy skills in 2019. The following year, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted education systems worldwide, affecting nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries. The statistics impose high risks for the countries’ economic growth as education is a crucial driver of economic growth and poverty reduction.
In this article, we share some of the sustainable strategies for businesses to achieve SDG 4, Quality Education and a case study on how entrepreneurship program help improve the employment rate among youths in South Africa.
SDG’s 4 Targets
4.1 By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.
4.2 By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.
4.3 By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university.
4.4 By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship.
4.5 By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations.
4.6 By 2030, ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy.
4.7 By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.
4.a Build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all.
4.b By 2020, substantially expand globally the number of scholarships available to developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States and African countries, for enrolment in higher education, including vocational training and information and communications technology, technical, engineering and scientific programmes, in developed countries and other developing countries.
4.c By 2030, substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, including through international cooperation for teacher training in developing countries, especially least developed countries and small island developing States.
Sustainable Strategies to Achieve SDG 4
Achieving SDG4 is essential for reducing poverty, promoting economic growth and development, and creating a more just and equitable society. Not only do the governments and civil society organisations play a crucial role in achieving SDG 4, but businesses shall involve themselves in education for sustainable development, capacity building, job creation and youth employment. We summarise the sustainable strategies for achieving SDG 4:
- Investing in education: Businesses can invest in education in many forms, such as funding for schools or universities, offering scholarships or bursaries for students, or investing in research and development in education. By investing in education, businesses can ensure that all individuals have access to high-quality education and the opportunity to reach their full potential.
- Promoting STEM Education: STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education is increasingly vital in today’s economy. Businesses can fund STEM programs, offer internships or other opportunities for students to gain experience in STEM fields, or partner with universities and schools to develop STEM curricula. By promoting STEM education, businesses can ensure that students are prepared for careers in high-growth fields and contribute to economic development.
- Supporting or creating an entrepreneurship program: Entrepreneurship can support SDG 4 by promoting access to education for individuals and communities in developing countries. By providing entrepreneurship training and resources, these programs can help individuals and communities to gain the skills and knowledge they need to create their businesses, generate income, and improve their standard of living. This can help break the poverty cycle and provide access to education and lifelong learning opportunities.
- Develop cost-effective education services and products: Businesses could utilise their technology and know-how to design and create cost-effective education products and services to increase access to education for children or adults who may not be able to afford traditional education options. Examples of the services and products are online courses, e-books, and other digital resources that are affordable and accessible to a broader range of learners.
- Provide employees with continuous learning and development opportunities: Businesses directly encourage lifelong learning by providing continuous learning and development opportunities. The opportunities are essential to help individuals to develop their skills and promote innovation and creativity within the organisations.
Case Study: A business develops and supports a student entrepreneurship program to solve the youth unemployment issue in South Africa
High unemployment rates significantly impact youth in South Africa, a country that has struggled with this issue for many years. With an unemployment rate of 34.4% as of September 2021, it is clear that the job market in South Africa needs help to keep up with the needs of its citizens. The youth, in particular, are the most affected by this situation. The high unemployment rate in South Africa has created a problem where young people struggle to find employment opportunities, which causes a financial burden on individuals and their families.
The entrepreneurship program created by Business E was launched in 1998 and has since grown to include over 60 universities nationwide. The program supports student-led projects addressing social and environmental challenges in their communities, focusing on promoting sustainable solutions.
One of the main challenges faced by student entrepreneurs in South Africa is a need for more access to funding and support. Many students who have innovative ideas need more financial resources, business skills, and mentorship to get their projects off the ground.
Business E addresses these challenges by providing students with training, mentorship, and access to funding. The program offers a range of training courses and workshops to help students develop the skills they need to manage their projects effectively, including business management, financial management, marketing, and sales. The business also connects students with experienced entrepreneurs and mentors who can provide guidance and support as they develop their projects. In addition, the program offers funding to help students cover the costs of launching and growing their projects.
Since its launch, the program has significantly impacted the communities it serves. The program has supported over 2,000 student-led projects, creating over 3,000 jobs and generating more than R20 million in revenue. These projects have provided South African youths employment opportunities through their business ideas and entrepreneurship. Besides, these projects have addressed various social and environmental challenges, including poverty, unemployment, environmental sustainability, and access to education and healthcare.
For example, Initiative S, developed by students at the University of Johannesburg, is one example of a successful project launched by the program. It provides training and support to small-scale farmers in rural communities, assisting them in improving their farming practices and increasing their yields. Initiative S has created jobs and increased food security in these communities. At the same time, the students had evolved into self-sufficient social entrepreneurs capable of running the project profitably. The result has been the achievement of Targets 4.4 and 4.7.
In conclusion, businesses could contribute many innovative methods to support SDG 4. The case study shows the significant impact businesses could create to achieve targets in SDG 4 by leveraging their resources, such as funding, human resources, and knowledge. The business has provided quality education and experiential entrepreneurship training to South African students. It empowers students from any background to become successful entrepreneurs and create business models that contribute to solving social problems in their communities.
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SA unemployment reaches 34.4% in 2021 Q2. (2021, August 24). Retrieved from https://www.sanews.gov.za/south-africa/sa-unemployment-reaches-344-2021-q2