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On your marks, get set, go! School sports is essential for body, mind and spirit

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Professor Michael le Cordeur is the head of the Department of Curriculum Studies at the University of Stellenbosch.

Thanks to the relaxation of the lockdown regulations, school sport is now allowed — as long as there is no physical contact. Sport is the ideal opportunity to get rid of excess energy. Otherwise, the teachers will have a hard time in class.

My wife and I drove through the town over the weekend to escape the Covid cabin fever. Everywhere we looked, children were playing sports. In one of the few broader streets, children were playing cricket with two refuse bins as wickets. In a narrow street, children were running relays with old water bottles as relay batons. The finish line was a rope between two lamp posts. In an open field, soccer was being played with a rugby ball. Children are well aware that contact sports like rugby are forbidden.

I am impressed; children have the ability to produce solutions when adults worry about trifles and often stumble over their own “wisdom”. It brings a warm feeling to my heart and reminds me of the Boland Sports Union and the early years of my teaching career.

The interhouse athletics meetings were a highlight of the school calendar. Weeks beforehand learners were exercising. In the PT periods (physical education), boys prepared the track under the watchful eye of Mr Kiepie Cupido. Girls had to make rosettes and Ms Margaret Ontong did not tolerate any nonsense. They were more afraid of her than of the principal.

The day started with a street race through the town. It was the privilege of the principal, Mr William Arendse, to set them off.  Male teachers patrolled the streets. Everywhere along the streets the parents lined up to cheer their children on. Winning was not an option for many (like me). But you wanted to finish the race because at the school gate the female teachers awaited you with an ice-cold cooldrink: red, yellow and green. After all, it was colour sports.

In my day, Francois (Kaballie) Davids dominated the race. Later he would set a number of records on the athletics track. Not to mention his achievements on the rugby field. He was one of the fastest loose forwards with whom or against whom I have played. Boland captain. SA Rugby Union (Saru) captain. And now deputy president of Saru. It all started with the colour sports.  

Now that the schools have reopened, there is an opportunity for new heroes to be discovered. Thanks to the relaxation of the lockdown regulations, school sport is now allowed — as long as there is no physical contact. This provides the opportunity for soccer, cricket and chess (as long as they wear their masks). Looking at the children, it is clear that the extra-long holiday has taken its toll. Competition with other schools is taboo; thus a colour sports event would be the ideal opportunity to get rid of the excess energy. Otherwise, the teachers will have a hard time in class.

As no spectators are allowed, we may just get the greatest number of participants ever. So start marking the lines on the athletics track with lime. Dust off the flag of Red House and make those rosettes and some extra masks in red, blue and green so that each child is safe and recognisable. Just ensure that the hands of the athletes holding the relay batons are sanitised.

Academia is important. But so are sports and culture. Indeed, our children need to just be children again. Best wishes to all teachers and learners in 2021.

On your marks, get set, go! DM

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"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"