The Emergent Importance of the Informal Economy through Secondary Education

Tasmi Quazi

Last year’s national trial examination paper for Grade 12, 2012 (final year of High School) geography learners, contained an entire section worth of questions on the ‘informal sector’.  The section was worth 28 marks out of the 100 marks allocated per question.

Informal Sector exam question

An experienced educator’s aspiration is not only to broaden the minds of learners with particular knowledge, but also to ensure that their understanding is good enough to ace any questions that test the newly acquired knowledge. This accomplishment came to the senior geography teacher of Holy Family College (Durban, South Africa), Lisa Ramese, on seeing her learners thrive in their answers with the section on the informal sector, many even totalling the 28 marks.

She attributes this to the fact that she brought her Grade 10, 11 and 12 Geography learners through the Markets of Warwick school tours. As she says:

“The heavy weighting of this section is symbolic of the emerging importance and necessity of the informal sector.  This is in light of the reality that government cannot create sufficient formal jobs for people. It is becoming increasingly clear to everyone that the informal sector provides livelihood prospects for people seeking income opportunities and is important for economic growth, locally and nationally!”

The Markets of Warwick School Tours were specifically designed for geography learners in Grade 11 and 12. This is because the national geography curriculum covers the subject ‘People and Places’ which addresses the topics of Informal Trading, Site and Situation, Land Use Zones, Urban Decay and Agenda 21. The learners each receive a workbook on the tours which addresses the academic material.

They complete this workbook along the route based on the information given to them by the tour guide and through their own observations. In addition, the students are addressed by Asiye eTafuleni (AeT) staff before and after the tour. Lisa firmly believes that the learners’ first-hand experience through the tour and the questions posed by the workbook is the reason why they did exceptionally well with the section on the informal sector.

The school tours have seen hoards of high school learners from around KwaZulu-Natal coming through to learn about the informal economy. At the beginning, despite the brave resolve of educators, many of the learners came with negative preconceptions and prejudices from what they have heard from their parents about the area.  However, the overwhelming feedback by the learners has been how safe, enjoyable and eye-opening the experience has been for them.  To read some of the student reflections, click here.

Senior Geography Teacher Lisa Ramese with her learners on a Markets of Warwick School Tour
Senior Geography Teacher Lisa Ramese with her learners on a Markets of Warwick School Tour

As schools return with their new batch of students from not only geography, tourism and other subjects too, they have already been primed by the previous years. Instead of any type of reservation, the students and teachers come excitedly expecting, not only knowledge, but a new appreciation for the informal sector. This can be seen as they walk away adorned with traditional African attire and a live poultry or two as their new pets, so we’re told.

For AeT, this is affirmation of the social transformation that is possible through the celebration of the endemic energy and vibrancy of the informal economy. To this Lisa Ramese added, “Initiatives like this engenders more empathy for the marginalised in society.”

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.