Call to bring sport back into township schools

A SPORTS ground at a KwaMashu school in a state of neglect. Most township schools don’t offer sport in the curriculum. | KHAYA NGWENYA

A SPORTS ground at a KwaMashu school in a state of neglect. Most township schools don’t offer sport in the curriculum. | KHAYA NGWENYA

Published Nov 19, 2023


Durban — Many children are facing a bleak future when it comes to participating in professional sport as most schools in rural and township areas are breaching government policy by not offering physical training as part of the school curriculum.

The South African Schools Act 84 of 1996 requires all schools to provide sport lessons for pupils “irrespective of ability, across all schools in an age appropriate and/or grade appropriate way, based on the principle of equity and access”.

The act also states that the Department of Basic Education and “the relevant stakeholders delivering school sport” are obliged to adhere to this policy.

However, that does not seem to be the case.

Vee Gani of the KwaZulu-Natal School Governing Body Association, expressed concern that black children from financially deprived schools have almost zero chance of growing up to become professional sports men and women as the government does not allocate a budget to schools for this programme.

Gani said it was likely that in future only former model C and private schools would produce pupils who would take part in professional soccer, netball, rugby, swimming, cricket and other codes.

“The future is bleak for rural and township pupils because government schools lack resources, and as a result you are not going to see sports men and women coming from them.

Gani said even Springbok players were produced in financially self-sustained schools. “Even the likes of Siya Kolisi are from a private school.”

The Springbok captain went to Grey High School, a Gqeberha-based semi-private school for boys.

With the exception of Makazole Mapimpi, who attended Jim Mvabasa Senior Secondary School in King William’s Town, other black rugby players in the Springboks got their break from being associated with schools that had good sporting programmes and infrastructure, he said.

These include players Trevor Nyakane, who attended Hoërskool Ben Vorster in Tzaneen, and Bongi Mbonambi, who attended St Alban’s College in Pretoria.

At private and former model C schools, sport activities are funded by parents and businesses.

Sport training in schools plays an important role in promoting wellness and social cohesion, the lack of it flies in the face of the government’s National Development Plan.

This demands that all schools have compulsory physical education as an integral part of a child’s development. It also stated that every school should employ a qualified physical education teacher.

Provincial Department of Education spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said the department agreed “100%” with Gani’s views about the absence of sporting activities in the school curriculum.

“Schools don't integrate sports into their curriculum and secondly, the spatial arrangement in townships is a problem. Land grabs are a big challenge as people put up shacks on school sporting fields,” said Mahlambi.

He did not respond to questions as to how much money the department allocated for sport programmes in schools and how many sport teachers have been employed.

University of KwaZulu-Natal Durban Rugby Club chairperson, Thembalethu Ntuli, said the majority of rural and township schools have completely abandoned sport activities to focus more on academic lessons.

She linked the youth’s ill behaviour to the absence of sport in communities.

She said rugby leadership with the support of the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture had come up with community clubs to recruit township children to join the sport.

“The majority of schools in Clermont, for instance, have stopped sports completely.

“Through community organisations, clubs, ward committees, kids are identified to play rugby in townships,” she said.

There are 19 rugby clubs in KwaZulu-Natal that are associated with the KwaZulu-Natal Rugby Union and the Sharks, and are all within the eThekwini Municipality. Four of them are based in townships. Ohlange High School in Inanda, north of Durban, is the only township school with sports clubs in the province.

Ntuli said through local clubs, a talented young player who lives in a township would be identified and moved to a well-resourced club, and even to the “Springboks under-18”.

She said some would be identified through youth development club tournaments, recruited from their township schools and granted a scholarship to join well-resourced schools where they receive professional training.

She said township-based clubs have taken over the role of the schools in terms of sport development.

“The absence of sport in school is a problem. What I would like to see is that wherever there are sports wards or sport development committees, municipalities encourage them to offer different types of sporting codes, and hold tournaments,” said Ntuli.

South African Democratic Teachers’ Union provincial secretary, Nomarashiya Caluza, said even soccer and netball, which used to be prominent in black schools, were quickly disappearing. Caluza said afternoon and morning classes, which were previously used for sport activities, also compromised physical education.

In the KZN Department of Education 2022/2023 annual report, head of department, Nkosinathi Ngcobo, said a national task team had been formed to work on the programme to revive school sports.

“Subsequently, the province also re-established all the programmes that would lead to school sport taking centre stage. All schools should have access to adequate facilities to practise sport and physical education (and that) school sport must be adequately resourced,” said Ngcobo.

This was yet to materialise.

Addressing his supporters in Gauteng, where he labelled the Springbok emblem a symbol of white supremacy, EFF leader Julius Malema said the country’s soccer squad was struggling because of lack of funding.

“There is talent in South Africa (but) our sport (soccer) is not performing well because it is not funded, it has got no sponsors, yet white sports get all types of sponsors. That is why they thrive,” said Malema.

Independent on Saturday