Growing divide in school sports

The Chronicle

Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter

ON Thursday, April 7, the first term of the schools’ calendar came to an end and most learners from public schools went home without participating in any form of sporting activity.

It was a wasted term as the National Association of Primary Heads (Naph) and National Association of Secondary Heads (Nash), who were given the responsibility of running and managing of sport in primary and secondary schools by the Government, failed to organise any event.

Surprisingly, learners from private schools under the Conference of Heads of Independent Schools in Zimbabwe (CHISZ) held a number of events.

This means the gap between kids from private and public schools is increasing and there is a danger that schools’ sports will soon be elitist.

A lot of inroads were made to cover the gap, with kids from western suburb schools participating in cricket activities at the Heath Streak Cricket Academy and participating in competitions in their areas.

Those from the private schools continue to play and fine tune their talents, meaning that those from public schools will have to work hard to cover the gap when sport finally starts under Nash and Naph.

Institutions under Naph and Nash, in particular, provide the requisite foundation for children to express themselves from an early age.

Schools’ sport constitutes the bigger part of extracurricular activities, providing a platform to identify and nurture talent that goes on to represent the country in regional and international competitions.

Through schools’ sports, some academically gifted athletes have gone on to get scholarships abroad.

Through the schools’ system, opportunities are abundant for children from different backgrounds, whether they come from far-flung rural or upmarket schools, to showcase their talents.

Sport plays a central role in the schools’ calendar in the endeavour to support and nurture individual pupils with diverse needs.

But after two years of inactivity due to Covid-19, when the Government lifted the ban on sporting activities, schools were also given the greenlight to resume activities last year but Naph and Nash are still struggling to organise events.

Nash president Arthur Maphosa, has been on record pleading with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to loosen up and avoid red tape, which he said affects the flow of activities.

“If you recall, there was a time when the Sports Ministry gave the green light to schools activities, but our parent ministry blocked that.

We are of the view that once such announcements like resumption of activities at schools are announced, the Ministry of Health and Child Care will have okayed it.

It is our hope that there will be good inter-ministerial relations to facilitate the smooth flow of sport,” said Maphosa.

“As schools we stand guided by the Government through our ministry and the Ministry of Health and Child Care.

The position now is that schools’ sport remains banned until further notice, guided by MOHCC.

We together with our sister association Naph have made representations with the ministry to have the ban lifted and we are very hopeful and positive that very soon we could be going back to the sports fields.

Yes, children from public schools feel they are being unfairly treated because other pupils are participating in sport.”

The Nash president said as things stand, room for talent identification for participation in regional, continental and international competitions remains a serious challenge with some sport codes relying on performances prior to 2019.

Maphosa added that as long as schools’ sport is on hold, development at the grassroot level is also on hold if not in the archives.

He noted that a lot of talent has been lost over the last two to three sporting sessions.

“Confederation of School Sport Associations of Southern Africa (Cossasa) has been and will always be a sporting showground for school children and the gap of its absence created in schools’ sport is huge and irreparable.

This is a matter that is very close to our hearts as Nash.

The energy that the learners have is being channelled wrongly and ends up being used for wayward activities.

This has led to the much talked about unwanted/unacceptable behaviour patterns that emerge and show in schools.

“Sports clubs are largely urban and normally cater for day scholars to a large extent, yet the largest populations are in rural schools and also in boarding schools.

The few that are absorbed in clubs are absorbed nicodemously and as such never make their participation known to schools.

This in our view compromises the non-participants as schools have no way of telling and tracking sporting movements of these athletes.

This puts schools at risk of the virus being silently brought into the schools.

The system has no other recreational programmes in place for now to control the excess energy.

Nash is seized with these issues and remains hopeful that sooner rather than later, something will be done,” Maphosa said.

As Nash, Maphosa says they are ready to resume sports anytime.

“We have our tentative calendars in place and it will be all systems go as soon as the ban is lifted.

Our plan is not to leave any discipline out.

Ours has always started with athletics and we will start from there when the ban is lifted.

We will certainly have logistical challenges of a congested programme but we believe where there is a will, there is always a way.

Schools are ready and waiting, so are the athletes. Our sporting calendar and disciplines on offer have always catered for all our learners and this will remain so.

We are really excited about the vaccination of all learners from 12 years and above as this reduces infection chances and also reduces infection effects on our learners.

This in our view should drive policy makers to open up schools’ sports.

We remain hopeful that the return of schools’ sport is near,” Maphosa said.

Naph president Cynthia Khumalo said they have been lobbying for the return of sport and referred questions to the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.

“We know that sport is good for both the learners and teachers.

We’ve been lobbying for the return of sport and I think the Ministry can assist with the questions you’re asking,” said Khumalo.

The Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) as well as the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education did not respond to questions sent to them.

Surely, someone must explain why sporting activities in schools haven’t been happening when the Government lifted the sporting ban?

If ever there are plans to resume sporting activities in schools, is there a model for the reintroduction of sport and what is it like considering that most learners above 12 years are now being vaccinated?

With Cossasa Games coming in August as well as the Africa Union Sports Council Region 5 Under-20 games later this year, where will the country get its representatives?

Does it mean children in rural areas without clubs will be ignored in the selection process?

What happens to sports levies that the parents pay?

– @ZililoR

Article Source: The Chronicle

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