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17 August 2017 23:25 (South Africa)
Opinionista Vince van der Bijl

Transformation will help us move forward, not backwards

  • Vince van der Bijl
    Vince-vd-Bijl.jpg
    Vince van der Bijl

    Vince van der Bijl played 156 first-class matches in England and South Africa. He later served as the ICC umpires' and referees' manager.

Transformation is not a bad thing. It just means changing the way things are. We should all chip in. This is how one community in Masiphumelele plans on doing just that.

The negative publicity the word transformation gets is simply wrong. It seems that, for many, transformation means a drop in standard or, more superficially, ticking boxes. But that’s not what transformation is about at all.

More simply, the word just means changing the way things currently are.

And nobody can dispute that we as a society need to change and change radically. We as individuals need to change what we do, how we think and how we can make a real difference. We do the latter by the way we behave, what we say and as Michael Jackson sang in his hit, The man in the mirror; “if you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change”.

For the majority of our country’s population, equal access to resources and opportunities is simply not happening. Take for example the statistics of school sport. The majority of schools outside of the former Model C schools offer no after-school sports for their learners.

This is a staggering amount. Can you imagine how much talent we are losing through this failure?

We all know who is responsible for this calamity. The government too is in need of genuine transformation.

How we respond to this makes all the difference. We can sit around complaining or we can change and do something. And that means everyone. Integration and understanding come from all South Africans sharing more, understanding more, integrating more, forgiving more and being more generous.

That is the only way for the development of a rainbow nation – that simple and most complex step.

For me, this small step is through a sports plan developed at Ukhanyo Primary School in the township of Masiphumelele. The facilities here are somewhat typical of the broader picture.

Initially built to accommodate 450 children, Ukhanyo Primary School currently caters for four times that. Those children have access to just one netball court, one sprint track, and only one physical education teacher and no sports field.

Compare that to some of the more affluent suburban areas and you can quickly see where the problem lies.

Masi can be considered a hopeless place; but meet the children and staff of the school and the staff and volunteers of our partnering NGO, Masicorp, and one sees a snapshot of what is possible. Potential abounds in this educational haven of learning, safety and joy in a most disadvantaged community. They are inspiring and have inspired me by their grace, determination and energy to assist in a sports programme that they desperately need.

For this project, the MCC has pledged £50,000 over three years to the MCC Masi 750 Sports Club project. The aim is to provide sustainable resources to the community.

The first part of the project started in this third term and with the MCC’s generous start-up sponsorship has built three state-of-the-art cricket nets, employed a sports administrator and two expert coaches and has school kit and sports equipment on order. The project working with the school is developing a coaching and playing structure to double the number of teams and participants at Ukhanyo Primary School (including women’s cricket) in the first year. Then choose a number! It is planned to involve the parents and the community fully.

To sustain and expand this programme we need to raise R1-million a year, by asking 750 donors to donate R100 or R200 a month or R1,200 or R2,400 a year ad infinitum. A do-able goal.

But this project is just one seed in a very large field of required growth and change. South Africa needs many such seeds to geminate throughout the country, whether it is chess, violins, drama or dance. Any discipline that gives learners confidence, self-worth and growth.

Sport transformed me totally, so was my natural choice. Sport binds people because it gives people joy instantly. If you see kids run, they laugh. If you see kids hit a ball, they laugh, whereas other disciplines are slightly more cerebral and quieter. Sport brings instant joy and every child can find confidence and that intense energy, excitement and fulfilling experiences through it.

But sport is also about change. Our goal is not finding international cricketers – although that would be a bonus.

The project simply is about equal access to resources and opportunities. We cannot change the world; however, we can change ourselves and those we come into contact with and what we do.

If we do that, transformation will change our country. It is not about targets in national teams, it is about equality and opportunity.

Just look at the Blitzboks. The team is a perfect illustration of what a rainbow national team and indeed, our country, can achieve. They are truly transformed using each other’s energies, diversities and uniqueness. The team strives for a common vision, collective leadership and a real family. What a bunch of fine South Africans leading the way.

As a nation, we must believe in our truly South African way of always overcoming the odds and reminding ourselves what we can achieve as one people, one nation. The rainbow nation is not a pipe dream – it can be achieved with a considerable amount of understanding, sharing and generosity from both rich and poor and everyone in between. And, man, that is something worth fighting for. DM

  • Vince van der Bijl
    Vince-vd-Bijl.jpg
    Vince van der Bijl

    Vince van der Bijl played 156 first-class matches in England and South Africa. He later served as the ICC umpires' and referees' manager.

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