Students have broken off for the holidays, and it’s a time for them to refresh their minds as they prepare for the next term. On the other hand, it’s an opportunity for parents and families to spend some quality time with their children.
However, educators say apart from emphasising homework and academics, parents should take this chance to help talented children to reach their full potential by involving them in activities that will help them excel in their academics such as sports.
Children and Youth Sports is one such organisation that has vocational programmes which help children between the age of five and 18 explore their talents in different sports.
The programme, which started last year, has a range of activities such as swimming, football, skating, basketball and athletics, among others, at Amahoro National Stadium. These activities are on during the holidays, and only on weekends during school days.
According to Nelson Mukasa, the president of the organisation, children across the country are free to participate, and they use these activities to identify those children with special talents from the village level.
“The reason why we are doing this is that during school vacations, most students spend their time engaging in bad habits such as smoking, drug abuse and even watching television programmes that are not good for them. And most of the time this is done behind their parents’ back. Coming up with such programmes is intended to prevent such by promoting young people’s talents and vitality in sports,” he says.
Since students always have a busy schedule, and spend most of their time on class work, Jean Marie Karangwa, a teacher and sports trainer, says the holiday season is the best opportunity for parents to help them explore in sports, especially those who are talented in particular games.
“Apart from helping their parents out, learners also need to experience and develop their talents. Sports improve their general wellbeing as it helps them to relax from the academic load,” he says.
Fidel Kanamugire, the founder of Hope for Play Rwanda, a local organisation that helps in nurturing young talents, mainly in football and basketball, says parents should come up with a good plan on how their children are going to utilise their time while at home.
He says parents should focus on activities that will keep children’s minds fresh and active.
“For instance, sporting improves their creativity, skills and strength. This is also another way of making students get to socialise with others,” he says.
Karangwa believes that parents should limit the time their children spend on academic work during the holiday, saying helping them to refresh up will add value to their academics.
“The only way to do this is to encourage children to participate in games that they think they love or are talented in. Also, participating in community work during their free time will improve their minds as well,” he says.
Even in cases where some of them may not be talented in anything, Karangwa says letting them watch their peers participate in games, can help them emulate them, thus awakening their curiosity to do what they enjoy most.
Faustin Mutabazi, the chief executive officer at Educational Consultancy Bureau, an organisation that supports education and curriculum development activities in Rwanda, says for children experiencing social and emotional problems, one of the most potent remedies is within the sports and recreation.
“A number of schools have limited extra-curriculum activities, and students don’t get ample time to participate in them. The holiday is the best time for students to do this as it is key in the all-round growth of any child,” he says.
Mutambazi adds that children consolidate what they are learning and discover who they are and what they are interested in when they get to engage in active activities such as sports.
To encourage children develop their talents, Mutambazi says parents need to make time for their children through supporting them in what they want to do.
“Such activities help them develop intelligence and creativity. Playful interaction improves better self-regulation, self-awareness and collaboration skills. Sports lead to greater ownership of a student’s own learning and free imagination,” he says.
Mutambazi says their bureau organises sports and recreation activities, social study tours as well as competitions in various educational domains.
He adds sports activities expose learners to more experiences than schools offer.
Research on benefits of sports
A survey conducted by the Minnesota State High School League in 2007 and reported by the NFHS found that the average GPA of a high school athlete was 2.84, while a student who was not involved in athletics had an average GPA of 2.68. The survey also showed that student athletes missed less school than their non-athlete counterparts, with a total of 7.4 days missed and 8.8 days missed, respectively.
Another study published in the Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise in August, 2007 found that students who were active in sports like soccer, football and even skateboarding performed 10 percent better in core subjects like math, science, social studies and language arts. Because sports offer equal opportunity to all students at the high school level, these academic benefits extend to all area of the student population, including students that might be traditionally underserved.