Chairperson of the session: Dr Granville Whittle
Partners and stakeholders
Officials from the different Provincial Education Departments
It gives me great pleasure to have this opportunity to address this august occasion - the first-of-its-kind Schools’ Sport Conference since the dawn of democracy.
Firstly, I must apologise for only addressing this conference today. We had challenges in the National Assembly that forced us to reschedule our entire parliamentary programme.
Programme Director, the development of mass sports and its place in modern society is a topical issue of great importance amongst academics and ordinary people alike. Popularization of physical culture, sports and healthy lifestyle plays an important role in society in any country. We are convinced that mass participation in sport is the basis of professional sport, the condition of physical perfection of the younger generations. Professional sport allows, by identifying individual opportunities and abilities of each person in a particular area of sports activity (through increased specialization and individualization of the training process), to achieve maximum, record sporting results. Records in professional sport, winning the official international, national and other sporting events, creates a moral incentive to the development of mass sports.
Programme Director, we must admit that over the years, we relegated the matters of sport to the professional sporting bodies. I am glad to say that is about to change. This conference is a first step in reclaiming the importance of sport both as a societal issue and an educational tool within a developmental state.
Speaking about the role of sport in modern society, researchers argue that sport is a continuous social experiment, in which mankind showcases potential, accumulating and improving human capital, expanding its potential. Sports - by performing developmental, educational, patriotic, communicative function, integrate and coordinate individuals and social groups, helps the nation to develop. It is therefore not surprising that scientists have made an assertion that the sport system is directly connected with the subsystems of health, science, culture, upbringing and education. Sport has a significant impact on the socio-economic and political processes of any modern society.
In a fact just over a century ago the American philosopher William James called for the creation of a “moral equivalent of war”: the search for something – other than war – that would enhance a person’s self‐discipline, hardiness and self‐sacrifice. No wonder the World leading thought leader Dr Keith Suter thinks that sport now performs that role, the “moral equivalent of war” – something that enhances self‐discipline, hardiness and self‐sacrifice without inflicting injury to anyone.
Programme Director, it was within this context that the recent ANC National General Council (NGC) resolved amongst other things that sport is a key tool for social transformation and social cohesion. Hence, the ANC NGC resolved that sport funding model in government needs to be completely overhauled so that sports can meet its mandate i.e. creation of common good and strengthening of social cohesion within society. It was further agreed that there must mobilisation of the necessary levels of investment by all of government, including allocation from ALL provinces from the equitable share. The most exciting resolution called for the ring-fencing of the 15% of the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) to fund the building and maintenance of sports facilities in all municipalities.
Programme Director, we have entered a paradigm shift. We have come to a realisation that sport is in fact an integral part of a child’s development. In this regard, we have a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Sports and Recreation to implement an Integrated School Sport Framework. The purpose of this framework is to promote mass participation in school sport and physical activities that are aimed at enriching the curriculum. We believe that sports and recreation play an important role in the holistic development of a child. Dr. Wanda Draper, in her seminal work, Your Child is Smarter than You Think, sums up the new approach to children holistic development. She puts it thus:
“You can’t send the head to school and leave the body at home—the whole child goes to school, the whole child lives at home, and the whole child participates in the world.”
We are thus unambiguous in our new approach that our children and young people need to be developed holistically. This means that they must be better prepared by their schools to read, write, count and think critically. Furthermore, we recognise the value of school sport and physical education to provide the foundations necessary for the holistic development of our learners.
School sport is the bedrock of sports in the country. To this effect we have taken a conscious decision to encourage learners to participate in a variety of sport activities. Participation in sport has many important benefits. Sport can unite people, build families and encourage communities. Sport provides challenges and adventures, fills vacuums and gives meaning and a sense of purpose to people’s lives. Participation, irrespective of the level at which it occurs, can engender self-respect, esteem, confidence and leadership abilities.
Sport can also be used to reduce the social stigma experienced by marginalised groups, including people with disabilities and people living with HIV and AIDS. By engaging these individuals to participate in sport activities with other community members, a shared space and experience is created that helps break down stigma and enables people to focus on what they have in common. This is an important step in enhancing these individuals’ self-concept and emotional health. Hence, sport has the ability to overcome social barriers and also to empower individuals by helping to reduce social exclusion and promote lifelong learning.
Lack of physical activity by our learners deprives them of the important attributes I have highlighted above.
Sport is Actually a Health Issue
Programme Director, I glanced over a discussion paper developed by the McKinsey Global Institute - the business and economics research arm of global management consulting firm McKinsey and Company. The paper discusses the nexus between sport and health. It found that overweight or obese people now outnumber those who are undernourished by nearly two and half times. This report states that more than 2.1-billion people worldwide – nearly 30% of the global population – are overweight or obese.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa said recently, “One of the most worrying trends is the increase in overweight or obese children”.
The 2013 South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (SANHANES-1) found that the percentage of South African children between two and five years old who have significantly more body fat than what is deemed healthy has increased from 10.6% to 18.2% over the past decade.
This report, Ladies and Gentlemen, was earlier collaborated by the Healthy Active Kids Report Card of 2014 which stated that overall; we are not doing nearly enough to help our children eat better and exercise more. The Report Card says:
- Children spend more and more time in front of screens large and small
- Fast food and soft drink consumption is increasing at alarming rates
- Few school tuckshops offer healthier choices
- Obesity rates are up.
From these reports and statistics it is evident that we need to hasten the implementation of our approach of the whole child development beyond just being a new mantra. This is of course in a bid to stop the rot of obesity and encourage heighten level of physical activity.
Programme Director, I am pleased that you are hosting this Conference under the theme: “”Are Children Playing?” This is a very important question to engage on as the basic education sector. I hope during your deliberations, you grappled with questions such as, How do we ensure that mass participation happens in our schools? Are we providing enough opportunities for our learners to engage in physical activities? Are we engaging the partners and stakeholders in our space optimally to achieve our goals? Are we doing enough to inculcate the culture of physical activities in our learners for long-term development? Are we doing enough to create leisurely activities for our learners? Do we have proper systems in place to ensure mass sport participation by our learners?
Ladies and Gentlemen, these are the questions I hope you have been able to intensely engage on during this Conference.
My sincere gratitude goes to all - who despite financial and policy paralyses have been going an extra mile to ensure that learners participate in extra-curricular activities. We are aware of some of the challenges you face, and are encouraged by your determination to keep sports alive in our schools. Your dedication is highly appreciated.
A special thanks also goes to our partners and stakeholders. Your support and contribution to the School Sport Programme is highly appreciated. I would like to wish all of you an exciting and successful session over what is left of this conference.
I thank you.