Less than 10% of South Africa’s 25,000 public schools offer any organized sport, and pupils there are also excluded from the well-organized system of the country’s former Model C schools.
This, says Nathi Mthethwa, Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, in the foreword to the Eminent Persons Group’s (EPG) latest report on transformation in South Africa, “can no longer be ignored by government or sports leadership , because (schools) are the talent conveyor for South African sport ”.
The new EPG report was published yesterday. As a result, more than half of the 18 federations monitoring the EPG achieved their transformation targets in 2018/19, but black South Africans and women remain underrepresented in SA sport.
If that doesn’t change, Mthethwa is considering “the possible use of legislative tools” to ensure transformation targets are achieved.
It is a major concern for the minister that South Africa will soon no longer be able to compete internationally on the sports field, as the country’s black population will grow proportionally in the coming years.
He illustrates this by referring to “a projected decline in the white population, from the current 4.5 million to about 2 million by 2050, a projected 33% decline over the next 15 to 20 years in the number of white children under 18 and, in the same period, an increase of 17 to 21 million in the black age group under 18.
“It is crystal clear that if we are not irresistible and have reliable partners in implementing our transformation agenda, we will abandon our society and future generations.”
The minister says the latest EPG report “represents a watershed moment” regarding school sports.
The report identifies a long list of issues that are hampering sport at South Africa’s public schools, including a lack of sports facilities, reluctant teachers, little to no physical education and the fact that former Model C schools offer leagues and play against each other .
“It widens the gap between these schools and others,” writes the EPG.
“Sport is increasingly exclusive and inaccessible to the majority of the school-going population. Sports federations do not have the resources or the daily access to be in contact with the more than 25,000 schools across the country. The end is that less than 10% of schools participate in organized school sports. ”
* The sports code that has the largest number of children is athletics, with 38% of the country’s primary schools and 35% of high schools offering it according to the report.
Cricket can be played at a quarter of primary schools, but it drops to just 9% at high schools, according to the report, probably because KFC’s mini-cricket program is effective at primary schools level, but falls away for high schools.
Netball is played at 12% of primary schools and 14% of high schools, while rugby is offered at 7% of both primary and secondary schools.
Soccer, the sport that has the biggest support in the country, has no formal footprint at school level – according to the EPG a “major and long-standing strategic weakness”.
* In terms of senior sports, only five of the 18 federations monitored in 2018 have pushed national men’s teams into the field with more than 60% black players.
According to the report, the Springboks maintained an average of 22% black Africans (and 39% non-white players). The national men’s cricket team figures were 23% and 52% respectively. Figures for 2019 are not included in the report.
In the national women’s netball team, 57% of the players were white.
* The need for transformation in sport, meanwhile, has crumbled a few tail feathers over the past week, when Netball South Africa (NSA) rejected three of this year’s Telkom Netball League teams because it is made up of only one district.
Gauteng, Free State and North West were told to compile a report of who was invited to the trials for the teams involved – Gauteng North’s Jaguars, Free State Crinums and Northwest Flames – as well as the state of development in their respective districts.
NSA CEO Blanche de la Guerre said the three teams were not disqualified from the competition.
“Why would we do that? NSA’s principle is to keep players on the track, not drive them off track, ”she says.
De la Guerre says the NSA’s goal is not to keep certain players out of the national league, but to ensure that players from all districts are given the opportunity to get there.
“The EPG makes it very clear that white South Africans are getting less and we believe a sport like ours, with so many players – more than 2 million nationwide – must look wider and make sure good players do not go lost in some districts.
“The various provinces also know this. If we want the help of the national government, development must take place in our provinces. So if they can only pick from one district, they must explain to us what is going on in the other districts. Maybe NSA can help in those districts where development is lagging behind, but how do we help if we don’t know?
“We would never say a good player should be thrown out of a team to make room for one from another district, just so we can say more districts are represented. But we have to make sure players from all over have a fair chance of being selected for the team, so we want to make sure the trials were open to all districts. ”