Need to re-priorities physical education and sport in schools

 

No one can dispute the importance of physical education and sport in the development of active and healthy lifestyles, as physical education and sport are integral components of human development and nation-building.

Numerous scientific studies and practical experiences have proven that active and healthy children are better learners than those who live sedentary lifestyles. Even though there is overwhelming evidence on the benefits of physical education and sport in the development of children to become responsible adults and citizens, the resource allocation to this focus area is indeed pathetic.

Teachers in most of southern Africa continue to struggle in less than ideal conditions to facilitate nurturing of well-rounded children who have to graduate, as young adults, to become economically active and productive citizens in their respective countries. 

Emphasis is given to academic pursuits, thereby neglecting the physical development of children. 

There is no doubt that promotion of mathematics and science education has long-term benefits for the development of national economies, but it should not be done to the detriment of other subjects or other focus areas of life.

Ministers and senior officials of Africa and indeed the southern African sub-region are frequent participants at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and other conferences on physical education and sport. 

However, very often, no value is derived from their attendances at these gatherings. Most of these so-called “senior officials” rarely compile decent reports to share with their colleagues or subordinates on their return. 

Foreign travel seems like a fringe benefit or perk for the “bosses”. 

A lot of money is wasted in airfares and allowances, as well as other related costs, for these officials. Yet, this money could be used in practical projects in their home countries.

No one can dispute that international exchange of ideas, information and experiences is good for programme development and implementation. 

However, greater emphasis should be given to execution as well as monitoring and evaluation of on-going projects and programmes.

 Gallivanting all over the world is not going to help develop physical education and sport in schools.

There is need for re-prioritisation of efforts and resources available to ensure that there are activities taking place within countries at school level before people can dash to world conferences. 

Some of the so-called “senior officials” are so irresponsible that they do not even attend the full programmes of conferences or workshops, as they are busy shopping. 

Once they register for the conference or seminar on the first day and get a few handouts, they disappear to the shopping malls of Europe or other venues of such events.

 Most of them probably come back for the closing ceremonies and photo opportunities. 

This is, unfortunately, the reality of what is being done by the “senior officials” travelling at great public cost, using funds derived from the hard-pressed tax-payers.

Unfortunately, there is a sense of entitlement among the “senior officials”. They feel that they have more or less of a “sovereign” right to squander and waste public funds on meaningless travel.

There is, therefore, need for seismic paradigm shifts in the mindsets of the “bosses” of many public bodies. 

This is not limited to those in charge of physical education and sport only but other sectors too.

History has proven that many people’s consciences disappear where money is involved. Most “bosses” do not care about anyone except themselves and their privileges. 

In this day and age, where there is tightening of belts and demands for return on investment (ROI) or value for money, it seems these issues do not concern some of our leaders.

This tragic scenario compounds the situation in the physical education and sport sector where already there is a chronic shortage of funds to undertake just the basic necessities. 

To add insult to injury, the very same “bosses” and senior officials demand world-class performances and medals from poorly prepared athletes and teams that are just thrust into the international arena.  

Compared with the support services availed to their competitors on the world stage, it is like throwing lambs to the slaughter in international sport. It is a classic case of sink or swim for most athletes and teams. 

These athletes and teams perform miracles through the determination of their coaches as well as the sheer brilliance of God-given talent in international competition.

Of course, no one can deny the shortage of financial resources but there is no doubt that almost half of the problems or obstacles that athletes and teams are confronted with, are man-made, emanating from the very same people who are supposed to give them support.

As Peter Miskimmin, the CEO of Sport New Zealand stated, “Integrity in sport is a leadership issue. 

When the very people charged with establishing policy and upholding those standards do not believe there is problem, we indeed have a very big problem”. 

This is, indeed, the time for national authorities in charge of physical education and sport in schools to re-invent themselves, to innovate and re-prioritise in order to add much needed value to the lives of poor children who have no one else to turn to!

August 2014
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