SOT seeks to field athletes in Umitashumta Games

30Apr 2021
Joseph Mchekadona
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
SOT seeks to field athletes in Umitashumta Games

SPECIAL Olympics Tanzania (SOT) leadership says it is waiting for the government permission for athletes with intellectual disabilities to be incorporated in the inter-primary schools (Umitashumta) games.

Charles Rays, SOT Director, said they wrote the government requesting it for sports among children with intellectual disabilities to be incorporated in Umitashumta activities, noting it is one of the ways of advocating sports inclusion.

Rays said although athletes with disabilities are included in Umitashumta games, there is a need for the authorities to include people with other forms of disabilities including those with intellectual challenges.

He revealed: "We wrote the government asking them to allow us to have our athletes at the inter-primary school games but up to now we have not received any communication from them, but I'm confident we will be allowed to take part at the games as our government advocates for sports inclusion.''

He said: ''Sports change a person with disability in an equally profound way by empowering persons with disabilities to realize their full potential and advocate for changes in society.

He noted: ''Through sports, persons with disabilities acquire vital social skills, develop independence, and become empowered to act as agents of change.''

''Sports teach individuals how to communicate effectively as well as the significance of teamwork and cooperation and respect for others,'' he said.

He further said having children with intellectual disabilities at Umitashumta games can help in reducing stigma and discrimination which are associated with disability.

He pointed out the approach will moreover create freindships and relationships among the athletes.

The SOT Director further elaborated that through sports inclusion, able bodied persons interact with persons with disabilities in a positive context forcing them to reshape assumptions about what persons with disabilities can and cannot do.

He pointed out: "Having primary school pupils with intellectual disabilities at Umitashumta games can help in reducing stigma which the children face in the society and it can also transform community attitudes about them.''

He noted: ''During the games on the pitch they can start friendships which can grow outside the playing field.''

Rays noted SOT had in 2014 started a program aiming at involving children with intellectual disabilities, with a view to advancing sports inclusion and it gathered momentum five years later when SOT secured funding from Greece-based STAVROS NIARCHOS Foundation.

He said the funding from the Greece foundation saw them reach out to five regions, Dar es Salaam, Morogoro, Tanga, Mwanza and Mtwara.

''With the funding from the STAVROS NIARCHOS Foundation we have managed to reach out to five regions of the country, educating them on sports inclusion and this year we conducted a sports inclusion seminar for coaches and teachers from Arusha, Njombe, Ruvuma and Mbinga district,'' he said.

Rays disclosed that the STAVROS NIARCHOS funding comes to an end next month, but they informed the coaches and teachers who attended the seminar to make sure that the sports inclusion program is sustained.

He noted: "Funding from STAVROS NAIRCHOS comes to an end next month, but we asked the teachers and coaches who attended the seminars to make sure that the sports inclusion program is sustained in schools.''

''We have also presented football and volleyball equipment to schools which were our partners, we as well renovated volleyball courts to be friendly to both children with disabilities and able bodied ones," he said.

He also disclosed that SOT is waiting for permission and support from the government through the ministry to host the 14th edition of the National Special Olympics tournament, penned for September in Mwanza.

He said the championship is expected to attract 420 athletes, 84 coaches and 40 volunteers, as well as parents and guardians from all 40 regions of the country.

The SOT, through work in sports, health, education and community building, is addressing inactivity, injustice, intolerance and social isolation by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities which leads to a more welcoming and inclusive society.

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