Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Academics or Sport…Student athletes caught at the crossroads

After a hiatus that halted student sporting activities, the sporting fraternity breathed a sigh of relief when it was announced that the school sports will resume.

The announcement, which came last month, meant student athletes will now return to the sporting fields to nurture the talents they have. Under the arrangement, sport or extracurricular activities were to be done within the teachers’ eight hour shift, meaning athletes were to play their games midweek.

Also under the new arrangement, teachers would be paid overtime allowances should they be held beyond the eight hour shift. What was, however, perhaps not fathomed then was that the announcement will disturb the student athletes’ studies. The new arrangement prompted the Botswana Secondary Teachers Union (BOSETU) to post an advertorial in one of the newspapers outlining the effect it will have on students.

Things, however, came to a head in the past week as student athletes from Francistown Senior Secondary missed three days of classes as they went on a sporting trip to Masunga. Incensed by the three day absence from class, one of the educators alerted Standard Sport of the effects the new arrangement, which he said was now sidelining the students’ academic side of things.

The source, who commented on condition of anonymity, said the new arrangement seemed to prioritize extracurricular activities ahead of academics.

“These kids are student athletes. They are students first and foremost and athletes second. If they continue going on sporting activities while their fellow students are in class, they will miss out and we will be leading them to failure,” the source said.

Contacted for comment, Botswana Integrated Sports Associations (BISA) president, Stevie Bothasitse, said they are aware of the problem and are negotiating with the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MOESD) to find a solution. He informed Standard Sport that with the MOESD having agreed to pay overtime where needed to teachers involved in sports, they have proposed that the ministry should convince teachers to work on weekends and be paid overtime.

“We did this because we knew that hours will be lost if students play sport during times when they should be in class. We believe that education should be top priority for student athletes, but at the same time, we believe extracurricular activities are also important, hence the need to engage the ministry and come with solutions,” the BISA president said.

For his part, MOESD Public Relations Officer (PRO), Oarabile Phefo confirmed that negotiations are ongoing to find solutions to the problem.

“We are aware that the arrangement has caused confusion and we are working on it. We have already written a proposal, which we will discuss with our elders, to solve this problem,” Phefo added.

He reiterated that as the Ministry of Education, they also believe that academics should come first and sport second for student athletes. He says while the ministry of education is more focused on the academic side, they cannot rule out sport as they work hand in hand with other ministries like the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture.

“The solution for us is that we should have sport but it should not disturb the academic side of the students. We should rather strike a balance so that sport does not disadvantage the academic side of student athletes,” Phefo concluded.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper