Defend Truth


Grassroots programmes the only way to heal South Africa

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

South Africa is in a political, economic, emotional, employment, educational and sporting recession. Mobilising local communities is essential to replace the lack of government endeavour on the ground. This will build the next generation of positive South African citizens to heal our divided past and produce a vibrant purpose.

Political egos, a history of corruption and an ever-increasing polarised divide by race, wealth and location have left most of this country feeling helpless, hopeless and in despair. The Nationalist and ANC governments, since the date of my birth, 1948, have failed to address the nation as one people – they have intentionally divided the nation, with the solitary exception of Nelson Mandela.

The answer to developing the next generation to transform SA is hidden in plain sight. From the grassroots through the communities. Do not wait for those in power.

The Nic Spaull report reveals the paucity of our current development educational system.

Seventy-eight percent of SA Grade 4 readers cannot comprehend what they are reading; 69% of Grade 6 learners cannot add and subtract properly, have no understanding of multiplication by one-digit numbers and cannot solve simple word problems, i.e. they cannot do basic mathematics, and 79% of Grade 6 mathematics teachers cannot get 60% on a Grade 6/7 level math’s test.

A proper education is a right, entrenched in the Constitution. That education must be a comprehensive one combining academic learning with sports, art and other activities. These activities allow learners to realise their full talent. It helps develop the learners’ self-worth.

I wish to showcase the key role of sport. The power of sport is a gamechanger to schools, clubs, communities and individuals.

The quality of physical education can positively contribute to the health, social and economic environment of the country and its people,” says Professor Hans de Ridder, director of the School of Biokinetics, Recreation and Sport Science at the North-West University (NWU).

Physical education is an important investment in the field of health and, in the long term, it can strongly influence the lives of children in this country.”

Sport at the grassroots level and in the schools in the underprivileged areas has been grossly neglected. The national sport governing bodies and national government are riddled with inefficiency, self-interest, lack of cohesion and leadership. They are, by and large, not interested in the development of sport at the community and school level.

As an example, the high costs of the promised “free” university education (for only 6% of those who enter the school system) need to be redirected to educating those in Foundation phase and at primary school. A redirection of costs will give all the young learners a real step up to a positive beginning towards better decision-making and a sense of hope and purpose.

The vast majority of SA school children have no after-school sport. The only sport development pathway currently is for those talented sports kids seen in the minority of underprivileged schools, with after-school sports, to be given scholarships in model C schools. Those lucky few who are seen. Many talented sports kids remain unseen.

To unleash the true sporting talent of this country is not by quotas and “targets” (inevitable as those are). It is by developing facilities, PE teachers, coaches to grow the next generation and will be a natural pathway to international sport. A sport, like everything else, cannot be politicised or controlled at the top. It is a groundswell movement and needs in this current barren environment to be driven by local communities. The national government at some stage will add some impetus.

Sport has one advantage; all learners can engage fully and feel its power. Every person can either run, catch, hit, shoot, tackle or kick, which brings instant joy and a momentary feeling of invincibility. It is the trigger to open the door to a whole new world; one of hope and fulfilment.

The government knows that sport is a source of national pride and sport at school and club level helps all to overcome age-old fears and animosities and brings communities together. Never mind the 1995 Rugby World Cup, watch an inter-schools match anywhere in SA.

A school sports programme leads to teachers inculcating positive values and attitudes and enhancing a sense of well-being and self-image; healthy attitudes towards competition, self-control and playing within a team and within the spirit of sport. Values for good citizenship.

The drive to this full, holistic education is kept alive by NGOs, local sports organisations, volunteers, Rotaries, foundations, supporting businesses and literally thousands upon thousands of many amazing people in all communities who give the underprivileged hope and a sense of purpose. There are so many magnificent individuals in and from the underprivileged environments doing this now.

There are some regional governments and municipalities that work closely with the underprivileged communities, thank goodness. The Western Cape Government After School programme and the WC MOD, which brings together neighbouring areas, are good examples.

The large majority of South Africans, however, are left feeling helpless with no hope, no job, no food and no money. Our history has torn us apart – we need to use grassroots and the next generation to heal us.

So, what can be done – just a few ideas:

  • Mobilise more fully the ever-increasing older generation. Get teachers and others from retirement homes and surrounding suburbs to assist the existing NGOs with their reading and maths programmes. Minimal cost and it gives purpose to both the older and younger generations.
  • Instead of dreaming about futuristic cities, build towns/functional villages in densely populated rural areas. The local construction industry would employ people and teach a multitude of skills, boost the local buying power, the national brands would invest, schools would thrive within the community, hospitals etc. Give the desperate rural communities a real vision of a functional environment.
  • Stop criticising those wealthy individuals and corporates who give financial and strategic help, just because they made their money under the previous regime or in the current BEE system. Rather applaud them. Make pledging support what it is – a wonderful and honourable act.
  • The government must match Rand for Rand the money raised by legit, well run, audited NGOs, specialising in holistic education, providing food, healthcare and essential services to the underprivileged.
  • The national and regional government need to set up scholarships for students to work in the underprivileged areas, designing effective programmes for proper holistic education, vegetable gardens and the like using local resources and communities’ power.
  • Neighbouring communities to focus on activities that break down the barriers of wealth, race, location and religion that divide us. A few ideas – battle of the choirs, debating and spelling competitions organised between schools living almost within walking distance.
  • Government to set up a network of regional and local sports facilities shared by the greater communities. Some have started, with fantastic results; soccer in Hout Bay is an example.
  • Set up a coordinated strategy with local municipalities and like-minded groups (NGOs, sports clubs, Rotaries, sports organisations etc.) to drive the programmes in their neighbourhood. Bring it down to local grassroots, led by the principals, pastors/imams/rabbis, community leaders and champions from each area. This leads to local cohesion, quicker decisions by interested parties.
  • Develop local inter-school sporting competitions with less travel, more parental and community participation, adding matches to the official school league competition. The local businesses to fund these.
  • Train the local coaches – they are in abundance, as are mentors and volunteers.
  • Use local tradespeople from our own communities for all building, development and projects to build local capacity as well as reveal the power of integration.

Collaboration is a simple act that will help the healing and we will see each of us as an essential part of our common future.

These ideas are merely an offering. Others brighter than me will have better and many more concepts.

The MCC Masi 750 Club is committed to breaking down the barriers between the townships and suburbs of the South Peninsula Valley. It is also committed to using sport as the vehicle to transform the youth, their families and the community – to produce better SA citizens working together.

I head up the MCC Masi Club, which is a collaborative grassroots sports programme in Masiphumelele, partnering the well-known NGO, Masicorp. In the last 20 months through support from individuals in all the local residential areas, much has been achieved. Co-ordination of Rotaries, foundations, volunteers, NGOs and sports organisations like Sporting Chance, Ubuntu Soccer, Coolplay, Goodsport, Atlas Foundation, BenBikes, CTCT, PedalPower to name a few, have spurred on the programme. The local communities and their schools in Masiphumelele, Noordhoek, Fish Hoek, Kommetjie and Simons Town are working together, sharing resources and facilities, bringing the South Peninsula Valley together. It is just a start.

Go to the link here and see what 20 months of collaboration have achieved.

A groundswell grassroots movement by the people of SA is the only way to develop a united South Africa – one nation fully developing at last. DM


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