In a conversation with a parent last week, Solange Mukandayisenga a Kigali resident shared her worries about her son.
The concern was that her 14-year-old son was not active both at home and at school; something she says has made him gain weight.
She observes that the problem lies with the school where her son’s teachers do not fully engage students in sports or bother to follow up on those who intentionally dodge participating in sports, like her son.
Although most schools have sports as part of their extracurricular activities, some students choose to ignore taking part because of lack interest among other reasons.
However this is unfortunate for sports as an activity doesn’t only impact students’ lifestyle but their performance as well.
Sports has got both physical and psychological benefits, according to Sylvester Twizerimana, a psychologist and counsellor at Anglican Church of Rwanda in Rubavu District.
Among the psychological benefits is mental health. Academic work is related to the ability of the brain to capture, store and process information, therefore, it is important for all schools to involve their students in sports activities, he explains.
Gerald Ruzindana, a health and wellness specialist at Amazon Nutrition Cabinet, a clinic that deals with diet, physical wellness and lifestyle says exercise helps to burn calories in the body reducing the chances of obesity in young people.
He says, when students are involved in sports; it improves heart muscles’ performance and endurance, which increases its efficiency and reduces the risk of heart diseases.
In terms of social interaction, Twizerimana says sports helps to bring students together thus helping them to make friends and that that such interactions help students learn how to live with other people in the community.
“Students get a chance to meet other colleagues through sports and are able to interact with new friends who are not from their school. These social and communication skills are the ones that help a student in future career and relationships. They get to know the importance of the people around them,” he says.
Twizerimana adds that these emotional and social skills are a boost to academic achievement as well.
Diana Nawatti, head teacher at Mother Mary Complex in Kigali says not all students are gifted in academics but can be better in other areas such as sports.
She says that when these students are supported and encouraged to involve in sports, it can help them nurture their talent and at the same time do what they are passionate about.
“There is nothing as good as one doing what they like, this can as well be seen by different professionals who are impacting society because of the passion they have in certain areas,” Nawatti says.
She therefore believes that regardless of the nature of talent, students can reach their potential if they are supported and given guidance.
Twizerimana says through sports students’ discipline can also be improved in one way or another.
For instance, during training, students are taught on how to follow the rules of certain games and also respect time when it comes to training.
This, he says teaches a learner how to respect and follow other people’s advice despite their age or what they do.
Besides, he says when students, especially young people are involved in sports, it prevents them from indulging in other unhealthy activities, that are common among young people.
“Most youth these days are lured into involving in vices by their peers like drinking and smoking, and all these are brought about when they are idle or not supervised by their parents,” he says.
Nawatti believes that it’s the role of both parents and teachers to monitor, create time for them and above all, guide young people in the right direction.