Sport initiative to aid pupils

Project leader Richard Rawson; Rotary Constantia president Ross Kelly; president-elect Peter Rogers at Westlake Primarys sports field.

The Rotary Club of Constantia wants to help Westlake Primary School give its pupils new opportunities by fixing the school’s sports facilities.

The club’s secretary, Geoff von Klemperer, says sports fields were provided for when the school was first planned but extra classrooms took away a lot of that land and the drought turned rest into a dust bowl.

Westlake Primary School serves 740 children, most coming from Westlake.

“There is no doubt that the disciplines of organised sport teach valuable life skills in terms of teamwork, sportsmanship, leadership and self-esteem in an enjoyable activity. The school needs better facilities, equipment and the right coaches,” Mr Von Klemperer said at a meeting last week with teachers and the school’s governing body.

Retired South African cricketer Vintcent van der Bijl was the guest speaker. He is helping with a similar sports programme at Ukhanyo Primary School in Masiphumelele. Ukhanyo is roughly twice as large as Westlake Primary and also serves a poor community.

“We’re all here with one thing in mind, to change the next generation,” Mr Van der Bijl said.

He spoke about the privilege many of the white people in the room had had going to good schools with sports facilities.

Mr Van der Bijl’s project at Ukhanyo Primary School, now helping 2 000 children, was founded in 2017.

“In 2017, there was one staff member, one court, they played rugby on tar. No one really played sport at the school.”

But after establishing sports facilities and teams, the pupils’ marks started to improve.

“One of the students was hopeless at science. He started cycling, now he’s become a leader in his environment, his marks have drastically improved.”

The sports project also introduced chess to the school.

“It’s not only about the sport, it’s about giving these kids the ability to believe that they can perform and giving them equal opportunity,” Mr Van der Bijl said, adding that after-school activities taught children teamwork and discipline.

“I always use the example of tackling in rugby. When you’re first going in, you’re scared. But it requires timing and skill, and soon as you succeed, you feel a moment of invincibility. Your teammates high five you, you punch the air, the crowd is cheering you on. That’s what sport does. It gives you a taste
of the greatness that you’re capable of.”

Encouraging sport at the school could bring communities together, he said.

Richard Rawson, who will manage the Rotary sports project at Westlake, said the Rotary Club of Constantia wanted to get two sports coaches to train the school’s teachers over the next two years. The club is seeking sponsors for the R200 000 it has budgeted for the coaches to run five sessions a week

The club also plans to repair a netball court, at a cost of
R25 000, and provide the necessary gear, including bibs and balls
(R12 500); lay a running track
(R550 000) and a fenced field with synthetic grass (R1.8 million).

The club would handle much of the fund-raising and administration for the project, Mr Rawson said.

School parent and governing body member Nkululeko Badini said the school field had become a weekend drinking spot.

The school’s children were enthusiastic about sport, he said. The governing body welcomed the Rotary club’s proposal and looked forward to seeing its benefits, he said.

“You should see these kids. When it was the Rugby World Cup, you could see all of them playing rugby in the streets making a ball out of plastic. Now that it’s the cricket, you see them using a piece of wooden plank and a plastic ball to play cricket just like they see on the TV,” Mr Badini said.

“I’m hoping that we can build the South Africa we wish to have, building a better nation, so our children can be Springbok players too, like Siya Kolisi.”

School principal Landile Diamond said the proposed project held great promise for the school.

“Our goal has always been to encourage development holistically. We haven’t really been able to do that, we’ve been focussing more on the academic side, I’m grateful that now we can have the chance to do that.”

To support the project, email Richard Rawson at richarderawson@gmail.com or Geoff von Klemperer at gvk@iafrica.com