Dismal statistics on school sport - EPG report
In fact the 2020 EPG report - which covers data collated over 2018 and 2019 - makes the same findings about school sports participation as last year’s report.
“Less than 10% of the 25 000 schools participate in sport and the Minister (Nathi Mthethwa) emphasised that this needs major improvement,” read a statement from the ministry.
Those exact findings were contained in last year’s report and in fact going back even further, to when Thulas Nxesi was sports minister in 2017, the lack of data around school sports was highlighted then, with promises that the departments of sport and Basic Education would work together closer to resolve the problems.
Last year, Dr Willie Basson, who is with the EPG, said that the two departments had struggled to work together.
“The two departments have tried to reach an agreement for two years, sometimes it worked, a lot of times it didn’t,” Basson said in 2019. “That has been reviewed this year and there is a new Memorandum of Agreement in place, and a joint committee, with joint chairmanship to ensure everyone adheres to their responsibilities. So we are holding thumbs it will work this year.”
However, based on Mthethwa’s remarks about this year’s EPG report, the MoA has achieved very little.
School sport is critical to the development of all sport in South Africa with many sports including rugby, cricket, netball, hockey and athletics reliant on schools to unearth talent.
However, this year’s EPG report notes that schools, as with all facets of society, have faced numerous challenges, and the deep inequality that exists in South Africa - and most distressingly affects black people - have exacerbated those social challenges, particularly in the wake of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Too many people are living lives devoid of human dignity due to abject poverty, which is 64% among black people, 55% among the population,” reads the report. “Poverty prevents people from entering the race and even when they can, they must carry so much baggage that the odds of excelling are small. Social injustice, particularly involving unfair distribution of opportunities, is a huge factor behind a fractured society. The battle between the haves and the have-nots is the essence of our fractured society.”
As in previous years, the EPG throws out a lot of statistics about transformation - with most of the major sports achieving more than 50% of their self-set targets. However, the statistics and the EPG itself risks becoming meaningless if the participation and playing of sport at school can’t be properly collated. It is, after all, where South Africa’s next Caster Semenyas, Siya Kolisis and Kagiso Rabadas will come from.