Local sports administrators have expressed delight at the decision of teachers to return to active participation in sport, saying the decision is long overdue.
Reacting to the recent announcement that teachers will finally be going back to the sporting fields after a two year hiatus, sport administrators said the decision will resuscitate grassroots sport development, which was already feeling the heat of the teachers’ withdrawal.
“The return of teachers to sport is good news for all. It will be futile to dismiss lack of teachers’ participation in sport as a non-issue because in Botswana, teachers play a big role in sport development,” Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) Chief Executive Officer, Tuelo Serufho, said.
He says, as such, sport should be thankful to all involved in resolving the issue, including the Ministry of Education and teachers for their keenness to end the stalemate.
“As the BNOC, we are bidding to host the Africa Youth Games in 2014 and we will be looking at schools to provide us with athletes. The resolution of the standoff is therefore very important for us and the country,” Serufho added.
According to Serufho, while the impact of the year long inactivity in school sport may not be felt at the moment, it is likely to be felt in the future. While lamenting the occurrence of such a situation, the BNOC CEO, however, says there are valuable lessons that can be learnt from the fiasco.
“Firstly, we have learnt that our sport development system has been one dimensional and this has proved costly. We must seek a multi dimensional approach to sport to counter such unexpected eventualities as the one we found our sport in,” he said, adding that such an approach should include, among others, a robust club system that can accommodate young athletes. “Such a system will be useful, not only should teachers down tools but also for school dropouts as it will keep them engaged in sport and will thus not be lost,” Serufho said, noting that another lesson from the whole saga is that there is need for sport administrators, teachers and other stakeholders to continuously engage in regular dialogue to clear out issues before they blow out.
For his part, the Botswana Athletics Association (BAA)’s Public Relations Officer, Ipolokeng Ramatshaba, said his association welcomes the return of teachers to sport.
“This issue of teachers’ withdrawal from sport was not very good for our sport and we are pleased that the issue has now been resolved,” the BAA PRO said.
He added that while the BAA has been affected, the effect was not felt that much as they had been encouraging student athletes to join community clubs, something which he says cushioned the impact of teachers’ withdrawal from being hard on athletics.
On lessons learnt from the whole saga, the BAA PRO says the teachers’ withdrawal was a wakeup call for sporting codes to develop and strengthen community based clubs.
Commenting on the issue, the Botswana Rugby Union (BRU) president, Bob Lekan, said the return of teachers is a very welcome development and a major boost for local rugby as the effect of their withdrawal had hit the sport hard.
“As the BRU, our position has always been clear with regards to the importance of teachers in our sport. They (teachers) are very essential in sport development and their importance cannot be quantified. No sporting code locally can grow without the teachers’ involvement and that is how important they are,” Lekan said.
He added that while he cannot say how much other sporting codes were affected by the teachers’ withdrawal from sport, rugby has felt the brunt and it may take a while before they can restore the progress they had made prior to the saga.
“Before the withdrawal of teachers, we had at least 105 schools involved and as we speak now, we have less than ten (10) schools actively involved. Most of these active schools are private schools,” Lekan added.
On what needs to be done to avoid such a reversal of fortunes in future should the same or another situation of such nature arise, Lekan said there is need to come up with new plans to deal with issues related to sport development.
“In the case of BRU, we have decided that it is important that we redeploy sport development to work with teachers. This is what we did prior to having teachers who could coach rugby and we will be reverting back to that system. We are waiting for the Botswana Integrated Sports Associations (BISA) to officially engage us on this latest development and we will then start engaging them on our plans as well,” Lekan concluded.