Sport has shown its ability to bring South African together. People who would otherwise never have socialized came together to celebrate as Francois Pienaar raised the Webb Ellis trophy, with the help of South Africa’s first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela.
That image, of the Afrikaner hero and the man who spent a life fighting oppression remains an iconic moment of reconciliation in the history of South Africa.
Now the Department of Sports and Recreation and the Department of Basic Education are tapping into the restorative spirit of sport to hold the inaugural South Africa Schools Sports Championships at more than 23 venues around Tshwane, with the main centre being the University of Pretoria since 10 December with the finals being on 15 December.
The games were launched at Lucas “Masterpieces” Moripe Stadium on 10 December.
The Minister of Sport and Recreation, Fikile Mbalula, said at the opening of the games: “School Sport is the bedrock of development. No Star just fell out of the sky, they all came through a program, and these Championships will be foundation for our future champions.
The Games will also help unearth schools in need of sports funding and identify talented and promising athletes. These young future stars will be given bursaries to help develop their talent. Minister Mbalula challenged the athletes, “You must take your participation here seriously, this is not just another competition. There has never been a program like this. Here we have different codes, where future rugby stars will come out; athletics, netball and other sporting codes will produce stars. If you are here you the best of the best in South African schools.”
The games are themed: “Today’s athletes, tomorrow’s legends” and should be seen in the context of broader efforts to promote access to an organised and structured system of sport and recreation. At the end of the day it is about offering opportunities to South African youth to develop their talent and support high performance, while also building unity and pride, and growing the sport and recreation sector.
More than 5 000 athletes aged between 13 and 19, have been competing in 14 sporting. There were also four indigenous games included, namely: Jukskei, Kgati, Khokho and Morabaraba.
CULMINATION OF THE YEAR
The Department of Sports and Recreation say the games are a culmination of activities that have taken place throughout the country in the School Sport League programme and is an opportunity for gifted sportspersons to be noticed by federation talent scouts.
Throughout the year, schools compete at intra-school, inter-school, district and provincial level. The winning teams at the provincial level qualify to participate in the National School Sport Championship.
Granville Whittle, the Deputy Director-General responsible for Care and Support at the Department of Basic Education, said: “Learning becomes easier for kids who participate in sport because playing sport makes them healthy. As a department, we support this programme. We value the importance of investing in administrators and coaches.
“We are, however, worried because it is mainly boys who are actively participating in various school sport codes.”
The best school in the country will be honoured at the closing ceremony to be held at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville on 15 December.