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» » » The importance of sports in schools

Cabnson Magaya
There is a famous adage which states that all work and no play makes Jonny a dull boy. In the simplest form, the statement stresses the importance of sports in the life of an individual. In order to have a healthy body, a person should do some physical exercises time and again by, for instance, taking a walk.
Sport is no longer considered by the international community as a luxury in society but rather as a tool which fosters social, political and economic development. The use of sports has been recognised for the important role it can play at individual, community, national and global levels. The United Nations (UN) in 2002 said: Sport is about humanity and together with sport and through sport; a better world will be created.
Sport has been declared a basic human right. It is not a privilege to be enjoyed by a chosen few, but a fundamental right for everyone.
Sport is any form of physical activity which through casual or organised participation and regulated by rules which are internationally accepted aims at personal development and enjoyment, satisfaction, or improvement of physical fitness, mental and emotional well-being, focusing on social relationships and realisation of results in competitions at all levels. Sport is a form of recreation. A person needs some time to relax and watch games. Nowadays stadiums are filled to capacity by people who are interested in watching various games being played.
Sport is big business nowadays by which many people are earning a decent living. We have football legendaries like Benjamin Mwaruwaru, Peter Ndlovu and many other professional footballers who have made it in life by playing soccer at professional level. We have the likes of our present Sports minister Kirsty Coventry who has made it life as a professional swimmer. In boxing for example professional boxers have earned thousands of dollars within a short space of time after defeating or being defeated by their opponents. Many other sportsmen have made a living in other sporting disciplines like rugby, cricket and others.
Sport can open avenues for other employment to some sportsmen. Companies like Caps United and Ngezi Platinum FC offer decent employment opportunities to talented footballers. Sport encourages team work, social integration and tolerance. In Shona we say “Gumwe rimwe haritswanyi inda” (A small thumb cannot destroy lice. It needs the whole hand). A member of a team will always remember that he would not achieve good results if he does not work with other people.
A team member will always want to perform at his best in order to fulfil the vision of the group. Sport encourages cooperation between members of a team. It goes a long way in building character and acceptable behaviour.
The new curriculum framework for primary and secondary education say ‘every learner should proudly identify themselves as Zimbabwean irrespective of the diversity of origin of socio economic status’ (Curriculum 2015-2022 Handbook Pg 19). Sport therefore helps to instil a spirit of patriotism in many players. Many legendary sportsperson have been very proud to represent Zimbabwe in the All Africa Games, Olympics and many other international tournaments and competitions. I have always been deeply touched when watching international games, especially at the beginning of the matches when our National Anthem is sung. This occasion helps a great deal in instilling a sense of patriotism in both the player and the spectators. To represent one’s country is a great responsibility.
Players will always try to do their best in order to keep their national flag flying high. Some primary and secondary school students have had the honour to represent their country Zimbabwe in various sporting disciplines. NAPH and NASH have in the past sent students to SADC countries like South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Botswana to take part in various sporting competitions.
Sport helps to increase the students’ geographical knowledge of other countries. Since we live in a global village, sport enables students to appreciate and accommodate the cultures and customs of other countries. This is very important. Before the introduction of new curriculum subjects like Physical Education, although on the timetable, it was poorly taught and at other times and places not taught at all. Our Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education through the New Curriculum has included Physical Education and Sport as one of the main subjects that must be learnt by the students. This is applauded. By virtue of its vocational nature, Physical Education covers a wide range of topics and includes human anatomy and the importance of the various sporting disciplines. In order for the subjects to be given the importance it deserves the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has made Physical Education an examinable subject.
What schools should do in order to promote sport.
·         Most schools in our country have been accustomed to the traditional sporting activities like Athletics for the first time. Football, netball and volleyball have always been played in the second term. The third term is reserved for music and traditional dances. Some of the former Group A schools in the urban areas have been able to introduce other sporting disciplines like cricket, rugby, swimming, badminton, handball, tennis and others. Other schools have gone to the extent of introducing chess and many other games. In most cases, very few pupils have been able to participate in most of these sporting activities because of the limited number of players in each sporting discipline. It is therefore very important that our schools introduce a variety of sporting activities where individual talent can be tapped and developed. It should be encouraged that a student be involved in at least two sporting disciplines of their choice and interest.
·         Our teacher-training colleges should be fully-equipped to train teachers for those various sporting disciplines.
·         All the playing fields at schools should be properly marked and maintained throughout the year so that pupils can play games according to their rules. Some athletic tracks are only marked properly during the first term when athletics competitions are held. After the competitions, the running tracks will no longer be visible. Long and high jump pits should be well-maintained and usable throughout the year so that the students who are interested in running and jumping will continue to practise and develop their skills.
·         Students should be encouraged to form clubs where their talents can further be developed. For example, students who are interested in cricket can form a Cricket Club. Expects can be invited to come and assist interested students in the development of their skills. This can be applied in other sporting activities. Talent identification should be a continuous process.
Malpractices which must be eliminated in sport
Sporting in our schools is sometimes marred by the following malpractices which, in most cases, are perpetrated by teachers and NOT by pupils.
·         Age-cheating has spoilt the smooth running of our schools sporting competitions. Some schools have gone to the extent of fielding pupils into wrong age groups. Teachers are the main culprits and some have gone to the extent of giving pupils birth certificates that do not belong to them so that they can qualify for various age group categories. This completely neglects the values of ubuntu, integrity, conviction and commitment to do what is right; values that our new curriculum wishes to inculcate. In order to minimise age-cheating in sport, it is recommended that the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education work hand in hand with the office of the Registrar General to make sure that all the enrolled learners have birth certificates. Claim registers can also be used to check the authenticity of the pupils’ record of birth.
·         In one district where I was once the Education Officer, members of one big school connived to field a young boy into the one hundred metre race for girls. The young boy was given a dress to put on. He was thus allowed to participate in the girls’ race. He performed so well that he was almost five metres or more ahead of his runner ups. The other teachers had obtained information to the fact that the winner of the race was a boy so some couches began to complain and accuse that particular school of cheating. It was finally decided that the boy be taken to the girls’ changing room where lady teachers would verify the gender. The young boy refused to go to the changing room and he told the track judges that he had been given a dress by his teachers and had been told to behave and act like a girl. The head of the school was a well-respected member. He was put to shame. The district officials who were there reprimanded the head and instructed him to discipline the teacher who had schemed the shameful thing.
·         Some teachers borrow players from school leavers’ clubs or nearby schools and fit them into their own teams. This can be called sports corruption.Pupils do not like this practice because they will be deprived of their right to participate and represent their own schools.
·         Some teachers often interfere with the referees or umpires decisions. In some cases they shout at the referees using unprofessional language. This must be stopped.
·         Some track judges have gone to the extent of giving wrong winning cards to wrong competitors in order to favour their school zones or districts. This deprives the deserving participants from receiving their right prices.
What can teachers do to develop sport and the spirit of good sportpersonship in their schools?
·         Train children to play games fairly and according to their rules.
·         Children should be trained to win games with honour and to love with dignity.
·         They should be encouraged to persevere and finish their races.
·         Teachers should identify and develop pupils’ talents by making sure that they are encouraged to practice throughout the year. This will go a long way in developing pupils to their fullest potential. Pupils should also be trained to play their games in a dignified manner and should desist from rough play.
·         Sporting, if well-organised, provides a lot recreation for our school children. It also goes a long way in portraying the good image of the school. Parents and communities are always proud of good sporting results. Lastly and most importantly, we should remember that sporting is a vocation.
C. Magaya 0784949878

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