UNICEF Sport for Development

UNICEF’s Sport for Development Programme Enters Fourth Year at Senaoane School in Soweto UNICEF Sport Development

Source: UNICEF South Africa – A healthy body, a healthy mind. This is one of the philosophies behind the Sports for Development programme, which in now in its fourth year at Senaoane Secondary School in Soweto. And the school has come a long way since being identified as the most critical school in Gauteng Province in 2007. “Our school was dilapidated; there was no fence around the property. People would walk in and out and there were problems with violence and drug abuse,” says David Diholo, Deputy Principal of Senaonae. Sports for Development was one of the interventions implemented to address this, and to help improve the academic success levels of children. It is supported by UNICEF together with the Department of Basic Education, and other partners such as Let’s Play, Total South Africa, International Inspiration and Mango Airlines.

Safe and quality facilities for play

The programme means sports-crazed teens not only play football, netball and basketball – they also learn important life-skills like self-confidence, respect, teambuilding, and communication.
And now the programme has been given a massive boost – through the completion of multi-purpose playing facilities which include a football pitch and netball and basketball courts, which can also be used for tennis.

“These facilities will help my fellow learners to showcase the skills that they cannot show off in the classroom. If this is how young people can be encouraged to come to school, why don’t we do this in the whole of South Africa?” says Buhle Fakude, president of the Learner’s Representative Council (RCL). Aida Girma, UNICEF Country Representative highlights why access to sports and play is so important for children: “At UNICEF we believe that play in every form is the right of every child. Safe and inclusive play and sports, are tools for improving children’s’ lives. They contribute to health, child development, mobilise communities, and foster peace and tolerance. Above all sport and play help all children have fun and enjoy their childhood.”

Results speak for themselves

The programme is already thriving in South Africa – which, while its sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest economy – is also a country that suffers from one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world, and high crime levels. These are challenges that learners here have to deal with on a daily basis. Some of the successes of the Sport for Development programme have so far included the training of over one thousand coaches, educators and youth leaders and the participation of over 200,000 girls and boys through weekly sports activities and quarterly community festivals, and the participation of close to 500,000 girls and boys in annual events at provincial level. A recent evaluation of the programme has shown just how powerful sport can be as a vehicle to address the challenges faced by schools.

“We’ve realised that there has been a phenomenal drop in the level of violence in the schools that have been participating in the programme. Some schools up to 80%. And we attribute that not only to sports but to what sports brings to the table; how it begins to change the culture within a school and the way that learners relate to each other. The respect they gain for themselves and then for each other,” says Nadi Albino, Chief of Education and Adolescent Development at UNICEF South Africa.

There is a feeling of excitement and renewed energy at Senaoane, particularly amongst those who dream of taking up sports professionally. Buhle summed up this feeling of pride and anticipation on behalf of his schoolmates, “We are uplifting and moulding the future sports men and women of South Africa. And when the stars shine we can say they are from Senaoane.”

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