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South Africa, 30 September 2011: UNICEF-supported Sports for Development programme scores a goal with South African students

By Katarzyna Pawelczyk

SOWETO, South Africa, 30 September 2011 - In its fourth year of implementation at the Senaoane Secondary School in Soweto, the UNICEF-supported programme Sports for Development, has gone a long way in turning around what was once identified as the most ‘critical’ school in Gauteng Province, into a veritable success story.

VIDEO: UNICEF correspondent Suzanne Beukes reports on students learning valuable life lessons through a sport for development program in South Africa. Watch in RealPlayer

“Our school was dilapidated; there was no fence around the property,” recounted David Diholo, Deputy Principal of Senaonae. “People would walk in and out and there were problems with violence and drug abuse.”

Through Sports for Development, not only do students get to play their beloved football, they also learn the essential life skills which directly translate into achievement. Teaching self-confidence, teambuilding and communication, the programme fills in elemental pieces to the ‘academic puzzle’ which are critical to a well-rounded education and a brighter future.

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.

© UNICEF South Africa/2011/Beukes
The UNICEF-supported Sports for Development 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,” said Buhle Fakude, president of the Learner’s Representative Council (RCL).

Power of sport

Aida Girma, UNICEF Country Representative highlighted the reasons 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,” she explained. “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.”

South Africa is a country that suffers from one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world, as well as extremely high crime levels. Amidst this dire backdrop, Sports for Development is thriving; arming its students with important coping mechanisms which help them to deal with their daily challenges.

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 per cent,” said Nadi Albino, Chief of Education and Adolescent Development at UNICEF South Africa. “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.”

A brighter future

Now, there is a decided spirit of excitement and renewed energy at Senaoane, particularly amongst those who dream of taking up sports professionally.

Mr. Fakude 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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