Education and adolescent development

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Championing change in the Northern Cape

UNICEF South Africa/2017/Okumu
© UNICEF South Africa/2017/Okumu

21 February 2017 - Sports and physical activity in South Africa are often viewed as an opportunity to safeguard the future of children and young people across all walks of life. This vision is shared and upheld by UNICEF through its various partnerships with the private sector and government. In 2007 UNICEF embarked on a partnership with SuperSport and the Department of Basic Education to ensure that no child is excluded from participating in sports through the ‘Let’s Play’ initiative. The collaboration was created out of a need to tackle the growing physical inactivity of children and adolescents at home and in school.

This initiative fits aptly into UNICEF’s global mandate for Sports for Development, a school safety programme which seeks to address social ills such as substance abuse, violence and truancy, and improve academic performance among young children and adolescents from disadvantaged communities. Over a decade later, the commitment still stands and this is especially evident in the most remote areas of the Northern Cape through the Physical Education Challenge. 

UNICEF South Africa/2017/Okumu
© UNICEF South Africa/2017/Okumu

The Physical Education Challenge, which was developed by Active Education in collaboration with SuperSport and supported by UNICEF, is an annual event where schools across South Africa are encouraged to compete in a 45-minute outdoor challenge. UNICEF recently had the opportunity whilst in the Northern Cape to witness Swarthmore Primary School’s participation in the sports challenge.

The school is located on the periphery of Upington in an informal settlement that is plagued by drug and alcohol abuse, however judging from the electric enthusiasm of the young learners, the burden of their daily struggles is not evident. “In the beginning the children are shy and reserved, but by the end they are confident and happy,” Mr. Thomas Allies, a teacher at the school, proudly describes his learners.

Despite the sweltering midday heat, the young learners moved swiftly between the various obstacles without faltering. UNICEF has made a long lasting commitment to not only advocate for every child’s right to play and sport, but also to ensure that every child has a safe and healthy environment to survive and thrive. 



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