A SPORTING CHANCE
MasiSports is transforming schoolkids with sports on the Cape peninsula
MasiSports is a non-governmental organisation founded by former provincial cricketer Vintcent van der Bijl at Masiphumelele Primary School in Cape Town’s south peninsula.
British politician Peter Hain recently visited Masiphumelele Primary School, which lies between Kommetjie and Fish Hoek, and acknowledged the good work being done by MasiSports.
“I find this inspirational. I’ve got grandchildren of this sort of age. Girls who play soccer and boys who play soccer. The way it develops the personality … kids grow up to really understand what life is about. They become team players, become competitive, become more skilled, gain more confidence,” said Hain.
MasiSports offers cricket, rugby, netball, soccer, athletics, chess, cycling and basketball to the learners. They have also built Astroturf fields and contributed equipment and sports clothing to the primary school children. There are coaches and teachers at the fields every day to help the children improve and excel at their chosen sport.
“If this can really take root and facilities like this Astroturf field – which is unusual in this sort of area – can spread around the country, it would have a transformative effect. Not just regarding school competitiveness and South Africa’s sporting ability, but also in educational competitiveness,” said Hain.
“What’s most interesting to me about this visit is the way they link the classroom to the sports field. How what you learn in the classroom is what you enhance on the sports field and the other way around. It builds up the individual pupil to be a much better and able person.”
A former cricketer’s idea
Retired South African cricketer Vintcent van der Bijl started the programme in 2017, and celebrated the fifth anniversary of MasiSports in August. Private investors – secured mostly through Van Der Bijl’s extensive contact list – contributed to help build the facilities, including the Astroturf fields.
“I was retired and I wanted to do something meaningful. I was called in to start a cricket programme, and when I got there, I saw the potential of Masiphumelele,” Van Der Bijl told Daily Maverick.
“When I saw this vast open space, I thought I could change that in creating opportunities through facilities as well as developing a coaching unit. That’s how it started.”
Van Der Bijl, whose role at MasiSports is mainly behind the scenes, has extended the programme beyond the sports field.
“The model is about holistic education. Life skills training for the kids and staff, coaching the coaches for sport and arts and culture, and linking with education. We think those are the key things to linking generational change,” said Van Der Bijl.
“I help with the coaching when required, but we have very experienced coaches. We’re moving to the high school in a big way – Masi High School – soon. We’ve installed two netball courts there … They have coaches and branded kit and equipment.”
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MasiSports is currently working with a number of schools around South Africa to help develop similar programmes.
Van Der Bijl said that “94% of schools [in South Africa] do not have sports. Only 1,350 have sports after school, out of 25,000. I believe physical education and sport – with all the other extramural activities – are crucial for a child’s development”.
“Our big dream, in the south peninsula, is to develop a rainbow nation as per Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu, and use primary schools to achieve that.”
Hain said he believed the government could do more for children around the country.
“I want to see that the money taxpayers put into schools in South Africa is spent in the classroom and on the sports field, and not wasted or lost to corruption.
“The education ministers at all levels should learn from projects like this. This is a very small but crucially important example of what needs to be replicated right around the country.
“If you did this right, South Africa’s sporting prowess would jump massively,” Hain added.
“This is a very sporting country, but its full potential is not being realised – and yet it could, with projects like this.” DM