Saturday, May 30, 2020

Dark Clouds Hover Over Botswana’s Grassroots Sports Development

As far as sport development in Botswana goes, teachers have been at the forefront of athlete development from the grassroots.

Track stars such as Amantle Montsho, Isaac Makwala, Nijel Amos, Baboloki Thebe, Karabo Sibanda and Galefhele Moroko, just to mention but a few came through the hands of teachers, both at Primary and Secondary schools.

With so much contribution from teachers towards grassroots development, it is not a surprise that Botswana’s sport controlling bodies and sporting codes are now in tenterhooks as the Ministry of Basic Education (MOBE) mulls over its decision to stop the payment of overtimes to teachers involved in Sports.

In a country where sporting codes rely on teachers for grassroots development of athletes, the decision will have a massive effect on the country’s sporting future.

Should the MOBE stop the overtime payments, many codes will run the risk of losing their teacher coaches and the results may be catastrophic.

“If this decision goes through, the effect will be massive to our sports development. Teachers have and continue to play a critical role in the development of athletes and any decision which makes them stop involvement in sports will be catastrophic,” Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) Vice President Technical Kenneth Kikwe observed.

“The truth is teachers have been at the forefront of our athlete development processes. For us as the BAA to have the athletes we have, they first pass through Botswana Primary Schools Sports Associations (BOPSSA) and the Botswana Integrated Sports Associations (BISA), and these associations are under teachers,” he said.

The BAA VP Technical added that as sporting codes or associations, they do not have the capacity to carry out their own talent identification and development and therefore rely on teachers for such.

“It is teachers who identify our talent and they develop it. All we do as sporting codes is to provide the technical knowhow,” Kikwe said.

He went on and said that as the BAA, they have already discussed the issue with their Sports Development Officer (SDO) to try and find alternative solutions to ensure their sport development conveyor belts are not broken.

He said as one of the solutions, they have resolved to engage with the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) to increase the number of their Re Ba Bona Ha sports development centres as they only have three (3) such centres.

“If we could spread these centres to all our regions, it would cushion us against should the MOBE cut sports teacher’s overtime allowances. We are however hopeful the government will reverse this decision,” he said.

The same sentiments were echoed by BISA president Joshua Gaotlhobogwe, who opined that any decision to cut such allowances may have overbearing consequences for local sport.

“All our sports development is done at primary and secondary schools by teachers. Any decision which makes teachers quit sports will therefore have negative repercussions in our sports,” he explained.

Gaotlhobogwe said the situation is exacerbated by the already existing tensions between teachers and school heads over overtime allowances, with teachers feeling that the school heads are the ones stopping their allowances from being paid.

On what could have led to the current situation, Gaotlhobogwe said MOBE’s contention is that it is now using the bulk of its budget on sports and this is affecting its core mandate of education.

“Their contention is that they are now spending more money on sport at the expense of their core mandate. They are therefore considering cutting overtime monies paid to teachers involved in sporting activities and instead only offer them night out allowances,” the BISA president explained.

Should MOBE go ahead with its decision, Gaotlhobogwe said associations like BISA will have to rely on their annual P400 000 grant from the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC), something which he says is practically impossible.

The issue also seems to have caught the attention of the Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) and its president Colonel Botsang Tshenyego.

Addressing the BNOC Annual General Assembly recently, Tshenyego alluded that the decision will have far reaching consequences for local sport.

“We continue to experience critical decisions made with potential detriment to sport in Botswana,” he informed delegates.

“One such decision with potentially catastrophic consequence is the recent withdrawal or announcement that teachers will no longer attract overtime pay for sport engagement. While this in itself was risk mitigation, the consequences will be far reaching.”

Tshenyego informed the BNOC AGM that there was thus a need to find solutions as any decision to withdraw allowances for teachers in sports engagement will have a negative impact on sports development.

“All sport development takes place at schools including the struggling schools of excellence. This matter is no longer a MOBE matter, it is a sport sustainability matter and we should find ways to engage for long term solutions,” he said.

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Sunday Standard May 24 – 30

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of May 24 - 30, 2020.