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The value of school sports

“The great value of sport is that it teaches us to recognise the difference between winning and striving for excellence, the better but much harder achievement.

More important, sport teaches us how to handle failure, to get up and try again when we lose. That’s the most valuable lesson, since we lose more than we win in life.” Bob Schieffer“The priority of the ministry in 2020, is therefore to find money to settle the debt arising consequently, the ministry has taken the painful decision to suspend sports in school in 2020 owing to budgetary constraints. We hope to pay teachers by July 2020. In the meantime, schools are encouraged to conduct sports within the boundaries of the school and within working hours. The Ministry will continue engaging the Ministry of Youth empowerment, Sports and Culture Development to find a lasting solution for implementation in 2020.” Reads the last part of the communique from Ministry of Basic Education, suspending school sport. According to Botswana Integrated Sports Association (BISA) President Joshua Gaotlhobogwe, coaches are owed P32million for yester-years engagements.With the world changing, schools are no longer just about academics and certification. Schools now focus on holistic development of the child so as to produce a well-rounded individual who fits well into the global village.

Sport has proven to be one tool that is able to do just that as it teaches life lessons like: discipline, tolerance, patience, trust, responsibility, self-sacrifice, self-motivation, self-confidence, accountability, teamwork, time management and respect. Also, sport develops in a child, a teachable spirit and the desire to achieve and excel.Marsh & Kleitman argue a case for sports saying, “Sports contribute to individuals: personal, emotional, physical, social, cultural and academic development. It provides opportunities for leadership skills, constructive outlets and generally enhances individual quality of life”.

In Africa, sports create employment. Children from the poorest of backgrounds have used their talent to make something out themselves and remove their families from poverty. These children have become role models for children from their disadvantaged communities and shown them that they too can succeed. HOPE!

Speaking at a Kgotla meeting in Palapye in 2013, the then MYSC minister Shaw Kgathi, said  government had identified 14 schools to become centres of sport excellence which will be aimed at unearthing talent and developing students doing well in sports into a strong team that could bring positive results for the country…adding that the country’s stars Nigel Amos and Amantle Montsho have put the country in the map by winning international athletics competitions as such this country needs more stars to fly the country’s flag at international games.

It is school sports that produces such stars and suspending school sports this year means that young athletes will miss out on international school sport competitions like COSSASA. How leaders fail to see the negative impact this will have on sports development, stupefies! Of all the areas where money could be cut, leaders chose THE CHILD. 

The decision to cancel school sport has been coming for the longest time…1966 to 2011, teachers did sports for free, sleeping in classrooms with students and bathing in toilets with them. Teachers were told that they cannot take imprest and sleep in hotels like other public servants because they have to sleep with kids. (o tshwanetse go robala le bana) Whereas their counterparts elsewhere in the public servants enjoy sumptuous hotel food, teachers were told to eat with the kids. OPPRESSION COUPLED WITH DISRESPECT!

Over the years teacher unions leadership continually pleaded with MOHIRI to stop exploitative tendencies and pay teachers for their work. Alas! Year in year out teachers trudged under heavy oppression, producing stars that wore blue,

black and white, selling Botswana to the world. The outstanding results not-with-standing, politicians continued to pretend school sport is not a place where money should be spent.

After the 2011 MOTHER OF ALL STRIKES, teachers took back their power and said no to exploitation. They broke the chains and shackles and demanded overtime allowance as they too work 8 hours. This is when the end began to start.

For some time, MOHIRI used BISA leadership to exploit teacher but it the end it wasn’t sustainable as promises made were never met. BISA leadership was left with an egg in the faces appearing like Judases in front of their colleagues. Failure by MOHIRI to pay is what broke the camel’s back…

The million pula question today is what is going to happen to schools of excellence and the athletes whose future depend on sports. Children who like Amantle, Glody, Nigel, Makwala and others hoped to use sports to make a living in future?

What is going to become of the learners in this year 2020? Leaders might be thinking its only one year but for a child a year is twelve months too long. It is even going to be harder for teachers in boarding schools as they have been using sport to keep students away from the temptations of alcohol, drugs and sex.

In a country that has failed dismally in employment creation, who gets as gutsy as tampering with the only beacon of hope for children of the hoi polio? Their only ticket out of abject poverty? And it is not even 6 months post elections!

The growth and future development of sport requires innovative and creative thinking. It requires bold and fearless leadership and a willingness to go beyond the status quo. But where people are spaghetti spined, feeble kneed, apologetic to a point of apple-polishing, decisions like this will be made without an iota of shame and or remorse. Wise, steel spined leaders wouldn’t have taken this route knowing the world over sports is used as a means to systematically reduce poverty, build peace, reduce conflict and create wealth within communities even as it empowers individuals.

This decision is shocking, coming at a time when one hopes to hear MYSC say they are getting into a collaborative SPORTS TOURISM project with the Tourism ministry to remove the rural citizenry from the bondage of poverty! A hundred steps backwards, when the rest of the world is centuries ahead of us!

There are solutions to this problem however. Number one is the 26 days separate pay structure for teachers that unions long proposed. This will ensure that the stand-off between teachers and MOHIRI ends and life goes back to the way it used to be.

Secondly, MYSC should come to the party and stop leeching off MoBE. MYSC has been ridden on MoBE it’s enough. MoBE might be a custodian of grassroots sports development seeing as its clientele is children mainly, but it’s MYSC who eats the fruits. Even when these young ones excel in international competitions, MYSC gets the glory.

MYSC is a MoBE USER MNISTRY, it thus should foot the teacher overtime allowances bill, and it should not stop there, these coaches should be trained and registered under MYSC. The money that MYSC splashes on the constituency tournament pet project should be channeled to grassroots sports development and be used to pay teacher-coaches. A meeting between MYSC and MoBE on collaboration and cost sharing is long overdue.


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