Botswana, as a sport-loving country, is going through a transition as witnessed in recent years by the contribution and commitment of private companies, the government and respective sporting codes towards the development of sports at grass roots level.
Even though the realisation that more focus should be directed at the youth came a little late, it is a welcome development that has the potential of winning this country some medals in the future or even exporting world-class athletes to foreign countries.
In all the efforts of different sports associations to invest in the youth, schoolteachers have become an integral part of their strategic plans, as they are the leaders of each association’s catchment area, i.e. the schools.
Sadly though, these teachers are quickly forgotten as soon as an athlete matures and becomes an award winning professional.
How many times have football or athletics stars thanked their teachers for grooming them? They are ever so quick to pour praises on the likes of David Bright and Moses Isaiah. Teachers, who used to give them invaluable lessons and motivational spanking, are quickly forgotten.
It is not just about the athletes but also the associations the teachers are serving effortlessly.
The recent squabbles, between teachers and the Organising Committee over allowances during Botswana games, are a clear example of how the efforts of teachers are taken for granted.
The fact that the executive did not see anything wrong with giving teachers, who hold the sole responsibility of ensuring children’s safety and ability to perform, an allowance of P150 while executive members pocketed over P800 for sitting in their air-conditioned offices is a course for concern.
Of recent, both Botswana Cricket and Hockey associations have embarked on a national programme to introduce their sports to primary schools.
Over 800 students were covered in the cricket programme in schools across the breadth of this country.
BNSC award-winning cricket volunteer, Girish Ramakrishna, goes from school to school teaching primary pupils and their teachers cricket’s basic skills like batting and pitching. Again, it’s the teachers who are expected to take over this programme to ensure its success.
The fact is there is no way around it. Teachers are the only ones who are better positioned to be the pioneers of sports’ grass-roots development. Until they are recognized as such and paid fitting dues, the well intended grassroots development program will hit a snag.
As it stands at the moment, teachers are mere volunteers who do all the spadework, whereas the money goes to those who just do the talking.
It is an injustice that needs to be corrected for the good of the sport.
The Ministry of Education must design a meeting ground, to avoid situations where teachers are divided between two worlds needing their services at the same time. This calls for full or part-time sports coaches in schools.
The Botswana Hockey Association held a two-day training workshop for teachers at the National Stadium in March. Forty-seven teachers, from 40 schools attended the workshop. Most of them did not even know how a hockey pitch looked like, nevertheless, the Hockey Association had to have faith that they would be able to impart to the students what they had learned. After all there is no way around it.
A teacher, who spoke on conditions of anonymity, said, as teachers they have long accepted their fate.
“There is a sports calendar that we have to follow every term, and we dully oblige,” he said.
The Botswana Football Association Technical Officer, Philemon Makhwengwe, is one man who knows first hand the frustrations caused by the current setup.
“This current set up is killing our sports. But who can we blame when students fail, parents complain and teachers are answerable,” Makhwengwe once exclaimed with disappointment when the ladies National Under 20 coach, Emelda Tumetsane, could not be released by the Ministry of Education for the girls’ important encounter with Lesotho.