Lesson for growth of sports as sanitisers dispute exposes capacity gap

27Jun 2020
Michael Eneza
The Guardian
Lesson for growth of sports as sanitisers dispute exposes capacity gap

IT isn’t often that there is discussion these days on the promotion of sports in schools, as games and sports are taken as hobbies and schools are somewhat sidelined, with annual schools’ games at the national level something of a non-event nationally, even when such events are organised.

Arusha's Orkeeswa Secondary School's volleyball side's captain, Amani Isaya, shows off the U-19 volleyball tournament trophy the side lifted in the international schools' sports weekend, which took place in Moshi, Kilimanjaro recently. Orkeeswa Secondary School became the shining stars taking home 15 trophies in different games that they participated in. PHOTO: GUARDIAN CORRESPONDENT

Just how famished most schools are likely to be was more or less evident during the reopening of schools as the coronavirus threat recedes – at least in our part of the world. It occasioned a debate about whose duty it is to provide sanitisers –hand wash special soaps, buckets – for placing in front of facilities used by considerable numbers of pupils or students. Only at the level of colleges and universities was this discussion not audible, and truly these are also institutions with a visible sports life, unlike the lower levels of education starved of funds to purchase sports equipment, refurbish or build facilities, etc.

The dispute about sanitizers was somewhat cosmetic, while a bigger problem was paying salaries during the lockout for the entire education sector up to phased reopening of learning institutions. There was some confusion as the public authorities were eating their cake and having it, that teachers be paid their salaries for that period but parents were being encouraged to expect that fees for the lockout period ought to be deducted from annual fees. That would create a no man’s land as with regard to schools and sports – where the government conveniently leaves schools to organize this vital need, and schools are famished.

The core of that problem is inability of schools to afford marginal surpluses for the supply of such needs without harming their operational balances. They did not object too intensely about teachers’ salaries for the period that schools were closed, but they appeared reluctant to add systematic supply of sanitisers to communal facilities in school premises, preferring to add this bill to what students pay in contributions tied with the statutory fees. Some school heads issued notices to parents to ensure that these supplies are packed with the return of their family member to school, but the minister shouted them down on the issue.

Students are usually required to report to school with specific durables like clothing or equipment which is deemed relevant or necessary to routine work, in which case non-perishable items of relevance to the fight against the coronavirus were plausible additions in the circumstances.  But aware this would pose problems to parents, the ministry stepped in to insist that this is the responsibility of schools –implying that they have greater capacity to ensure the supply of sanitisers than each returning pupil being already equipped.  In that case one can imagine what the schools can do for sports equipment, without such order.

This crying incapacity for raising funds for emergencies like sanitisers is part of explanation for the loss of ability for schools to nurture sporting talent, as it requires expenditure on sports activity for schools that would be comparable to the supply of sanitisers in a regular manner for the breadth of their premises. This by implication means that they have very little money for emergencies and couldn’t think of having a fund for systematic supply of sanitisers for a considerable period of time, for instance up to the end of the specific year until regular school closures. They would map out strategy just for the next school year.

The difference between sanitisers and sports durables is that the latter can be pushed aside from school expenditures and similarly not be demanded of parents to equip students at high school, with just a few specialized schools like Makongo or Jitegemee having a credible sports branch and orientation. As a matter of fact those schools at first instance even looked like they were meant to be sports academies but far from it, as they teach like any other. In that case it is leadership by default in example, in the sense that the two schools make sports a programme and not just have some equipment where the boys can do sport.

Despite the sort of energy the ministry used to drill it down to school heads (they prefer the term managements) that they ought to provide those requirements much of it will be in the breach but is unlikely to be followed up. Only if the now dreaded second wave infections of the virus start in earnest shall the matter come up, so as to avoid another round of closure. Still when it comes to sports the matter is in a live and let live situation, with sports a distant option or afterthought in school curricula, and it is unlikely the ministry needs any whistleblowers that there is something amiss here as to sports promotion.

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