ICC international women’s cricket players unite against AIDS
Mini cricket clinic brings joy to youngsters at Mbekweni Primary SchoolBy Yvonne Duncan
Cape Town, 21 Feb, 2007… The leading women cricketers of the world are no match for nine year- old Sisipho, a student at Mbekweni Primary school located in the bustling Cape township of the same name. Sisipho puts a big smile on the face of all her teachers and elicits glowing words of admiration when they watch her play sports.
And when she demonstrated her catching prowess, all, including nine visiting international cricket players, who took time out from their qualifying matches for the ICC Women’s Cricket Cup in Stellenbosch to visit her school, were duly charmed and impressed.
“My brother plays cricket. He is eighteen years old. But I teach him how to bowl,” she says softly in mixed English and Xosa, the local language, while demonstrating her best bowling stance. “I like to bowl.”
For children like Sisipho and more than 100 others who turned up for the mini cricket clinic delivered by the ICC women’s cricket stars, UNICEF and the ICC are counting on the power of sport, and cricket in particular, to provide alternative attractions for children, to keep them focused in school and away from risky or antisocial activity that can lead to HIV infection.
“UNICEF believes that engagement in sports can help influence children’s perception of risk when it comes to HIV and AIDS and help them remain HIV free,” said Country Representative Macharia Kamau.
The school visit, part of the global ICC, UNICEF and UNAIDS partnership, which aimed to raise awareness and reduce stigma around HIV/AIDS, featured players from South Africa, The Netherlands, Papua New Guinea and Ireland, alongside young coaches and community volunteers from SCORE, a community development organization.
Ireland’s Isobel Joyce believes partnerships like this can provide great opportunities for young people across the world. “Sport is really important in every way” she said. “It brings kids together, helps them make friends, helps them stay healthy and keeps them away from trouble,” she said
The vines are our mines
“There are very few old people here,” said Patrick Maxam, cricket coordinator at the school since 1988 and chair of the sports cluster for five schools in the township.”
The town is also dealing with social challenges such as entrenched poverty, seasonal work on the nearby wine farms which keeps parents away for long periods, grandparent headed families, violence and HIV and AIDS.
“We also want a good quality of education for our girls, who outnumber boys in our school,” said Mr. Maxam, “and we want to cut down on the number of dropouts we now have.”
Team UNICEF led by Sisipho poses with the ICC Women's Cup players at Mbekweni Primary School, near Paarl, Western Cape.
Sport for development
Since then, it has proven to be a resilient movement in promoting access to equal and quality education and in helping to improve community responses to gender based violence, provide safe and protective communities for children and information on HIV and AIDS.
Teaming up with community development partners like Let’s Play, Active Education and SCORE, UNICEF plans to increase access to sports programmes for up to one million children by 2010.
With the support of private sector partners, UNICEF also aims to strengthen sports infrastructure and upgrade equipment and lifeskills learning for youngsters attending the 585 critically under-resourced schools in the country, whilst building stronger ties to surrounding communities.
“The visit of the ICC women’s cricket players presents a super opportunity for all children, especially for girls,” said Mr. Kamau. These women athletes stand as prime models of achievement for our young girls and help uphold hope for the fulfilment of the dreams and aspirations of all children. Sports can do that.”
“It’s wonderful to see how enthusiastic the children are and how they are so eager to learn” added Leonie Hoitink of the Netherlands.
As for Sisipho, who only started playing sports last year, she is the acknowledged champ at 9 year-old style running, netball and cricket, which are her favourite sports and she is already showing strong leadership qualities. She plans to be the captain of her school’s cricket team some day.