Young people remain locked out of sports opportunities in the Eastern Cape, as the Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture (DSRAC) has drastically cut funding for school sports activities.
Our future Olympians are being denied an opportunity to participate because they are not being afforded the opportunity of having access to the best resources – be it nutrition, facilities or resources.
In response to a parliamentary question, DSRAC MEC, Fezeka Nkomonye, said funding for school sport has been cut by a shocking 72% over the past three years, down from R1,15 million in the 2019/20 year, to just R313 850 for the 2021/22 financial year.
SEE IQP Response
The drastic cut in funding has a direct impact on sporting activities organised by various sporting codes in the province, which are used to identify talented learners and provide them with the support they need.
Children who come from disadvantaged communities do not have access to schools with the best sporting infrastructure or sporting culture, and even though they are talented, they are locked out of the opportunity and deprived of resources that can empower them to achieve their best.
If we are to identify the stars of tomorrow and keep our title as home of champions, then DSRAC needs to actively partner with the various sporting codes and embark on a rigorous and ongoing talent identification programme.
These programmes must be geared at identifying and nurturing athletes from across the province, and with a special focus on those from rural areas and schools that do not have access to the same sporting facilities as those in established urban settings.
DSRAC also needs to be partnering with other departments in the province, most notably Education and Public Works, to identify schools in these areas that can act as feeder schools, and to provide assistance in developing the sports facilities at these feeder schools, to give learners the opportunity to shine.
The Department must also consider providing bursaries to top-performing athletes from these feeder schools, to give them access to the Sport Focus Schools (SFS) programme, a great initiative that has contributed to the success of many talented individuals.
The aim of the SFS programme is to provide systems, support and resources to selected schools, which will ensure long term best practices in holistic athlete development for schools in the EC.
I will be writing to MEC Nkomonye to ask that her Department engages with all the sporting codes and identifies opportunities for talent identification and learner development across the province.
Growing champions takes time, and requires constant intervention, support and encouragement along the way. The pinnacle of success we see at sporting events is built on years of hard work and development. We need to begin building those foundations today.