Only schools can redeem Rwanda’s sports

The month of May saw the English premier league and other European leagues coming to an end.
Allan Brian Ssenyonga
Allan Brian Ssenyonga

The month of May saw the English premier league and other European leagues coming to an end.

No sooner had they ended than the Euro 2012 tournament kicked off. This kept football fanatics (it’s now possible to also call them addicts) glued to TV screens each time a game was being played.

By the time of reading this, the Euro 2012 tournament will also have seen the curtain coming down and the winners running off with the trophy. A small break in between and we shall all be facing London to see whether Usain Bolt is still as fast as he was in Beijing.

We shall also be checking to see whether there is any country that can take on the Kenyans in the long distance races at the Olympics. But silently we shall be reminded of our own sports deficiency as a country. 

Rwanda has been going through a tough football spell lately that got me thinking about sports in general. A few years back, a game between APR and Rayon Sport would literally bring life to a standstill in Kigali.

Things are different today with Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and even Liverpool being the darling clubs of our football fans.

When our boys made it to the Under 17 FIFA world Cup the fans came back for a moment and cheered the boys all the way. They did the same during the CECAFA tournament.

However the recent campaign has seen the national team performing dismally and led to a blame game as to who is responsible for the poor results.

I am not here to blame anyone but to point to a strategy that holds the key to success. I think before we cry about the performance of the national team, we need to look at our schools and see what is going on there.

Do our schools offer children a chance to discover and develop their talents? Do we have serious sports competitions at the school level? Why am I asking such questions anyway? Any country that intends to develop sports ought to use schools as a spring board.

 If we want to achieve any sustainable success in the field of sports then it is high time we invested in our schools. We need to tap and recognise talent at an early stage. Different schools can be used as mini sports academies to nurture talent.

The Ministry of Education could work with that of sports to identify some schools that can serve as academies and then go ahead to equip them with all the necessary facilities to develop a particular sport.

For example four schools around the country could be identified for football development. These schools would have their football pitches improved to mini stadiums and a sports tutor sent to the school to monitor the development of the game of football.

Another four schools could be chosen to be the development grounds for other games like athletics, cricket, rugby or even chess. These schools would then be equipped to handle these games/sports at an improved level and thus serve as academies in a way.

Qualified sports tutors in the various games would then be posted permanently at these schools to guide the young talents or paid to make regular visits to the same schools to monitor sports progress.

Even the schools for the disabled should have a sports tutor to assist them in developing certain games. You never know when Rwanda may need that Para Olympics medal.

In a space of about five years, these schools that will have been facilitated to nurture particular sports will be in position to yield results now that interest in the game would have taken root and a competitive spirit nurtured.

Eventually Rwanda’s sports associations will worry less about finding talent since the schools will be churning out eager competitors. The fact that more than one school will be considered for a given game will ensure that a healthy rivalry would emerge and serve as a testing ground for the level of talent available.

The Education and Sports Ministries can then lure more talent by offering sports scholarships at different higher institutions of learning. This helps to ensure that sports loving students are also motivated to achieve academically.

In short we need schools to serve as our Brazil/Argentina (Football), our India/Pakistan (Cricket), our USA (Basketball), our Russia (Chess), our New Zealand/Australia (Rugby), our Kenya/Jamaica (Athletics) etc. With a well laid out plan, sports can soon become as popular as the Mountain Gorilla when it comes to Rwanda.


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