IOL Sport writer Lungani Zama.
There is a dangerous trend developing in our schools. For many years, we all turned a blind eye on the culture that saw traditional high school rugby become an obsession, which eventually evolved into more of a part-time profession for the gifted.

Already, there are kids who spend more time at the gym than in class, but teachers are taught to turn a blind eye, because these “stars” are part of the unbeaten first XV.

They have more pressing priorities.

There are kids who have shifted from school to school, sometimes in the same year, because their parents have been promised an extra this and that by the next school.

There is scant regard for the child’s welfare because, well, he will fit in as readily as he slips into the new first team jersey that he pulls on.

That will earn him the plaudits and the peer pleasure that is the teenager’s currency of choice.

The schools, meanwhile, operate on a different currency.

For a long time, a school’s source of pride was an impeccable academic record, because that meant it was giving all of its matriculants a tool to use in the next phase of their lives.

Over the last 10 years, the obsession has moved from the classroom to the sports field.

How many provincial caps or, better yet, SA Schools caps you produce is seen as a barometer of success.

An undefeated first team is a source of pride for alumni far and wide, some of whom have not even set foot on their alma mater since they said goodbye.

That tribal pride has become the norm in high schools.

Matches are televised, and players who catch the eye sign professional contracts even before they have sat down for their Matric Final exams.

It is what it is.

But, there is an even more disturbing trend developing now, one that is even more damaging than the pseudo-professional sportsman that sits in class dreaming of reps at gym rather than getting familiar with geometry.

Players are being shamelessly poached at primary school.

At nine, and 10 years old. Just as children are forming their first, meaningful kinships outside of family, they are ripped away and placed in a glitzy new school, wearing freshly-sewn kit, surrounded by strangers.

These little boys face pressure even before some of them can spell it with confidence.

It is rife in KZN, but the reality is probably the same around the country. It is sickening, because it is a culture that preys on economic hard times and young boys’ yearning for popularity.

But what are we teaching these young boys? That success can be bought, as long as your pockets are deep enough, and your morals shallow enough?

That loyalty lasts until a better offer comes knocking?

That we all have a price?

Some thick-skinned schools will claim it’s ‘transformation’, even as they yank a youngster from a perfectly adequate environment, and insert him into a world where the only familiarity exists on the sports field  from the opposing team.

What on earth are we teaching our poor, praise-hungry kids?


Sunday Tribune

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