Stakeholders canvass sporting facilities in schools to enhance all-round learning
One of the hallmarks of education is sport and it occupies a vital position in the learning process. Sport is the nexus between relaxation, exercise and mental alertness, which are vital to human development, wellbeing and growth. The aphorism, “all work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy,” underscores the important role sport plays in the learning process of children.
Schools usually set aside some part of their premises for sporting facilities and recreational grounds for students to enable children to develop themselves physically and mentally.
However, while some schools, particularly public ones have landmass to set up such facilities, private schools have little or no space for sporting activities, especially in Lagos. This is either due to the small size of the school premises or priority of the owners. Notwithstanding this obvious constraint, many schools still shrink their recreational facilities to accommodate other plans such as additional classrooms for more intakes.
For years, many athletes that represented the country at international competitions, including Falilat Ogunkoya, Henry Nwosu, Imaobong Uko and Haruna Ilerika, were discovered early in school.
In recent years, stakeholders in the industry have expressed concern over the declining fortune of nation’s athletes at the international scene. Many agreed that the country abandoned its youth development by failing to find and develop talents in school competitions.
Reacting to the development, a teacher, Sulaimon Adeshina Oshoare, said there is a connection between the country’s dwindling fortune in sport and diminishing interest in investment in game facilities at the grassroots, particularly in schools.
Oshoare, who observed that most schools in Lagos State occupied between one and two plots of land due to urbanisation, which makes it almost impossible to create space for sporting activities.
According to him, few old generation schools like Baptist Academy, Obanikoro, Reagan Memorial Baptist Girls’ Secondary School, Yaba, and St Finbarr’s College, Yaba, had turned the vast land that used to be pride of sport lovers into money making ventures, such as building event centres or short let apartments for religious leaders.
Also, he pointed out that most government-owned schools are using their vast land to build more classrooms to accommodate more students occasioned by increased enrolment.
Oshoare stressed the importance of sports in schools, adding that education is holistic, hence learners are expected to develop mentally, emotionally and physically.
He said: “The curriculum is explicit on this and sport/recreational facilities are compulsory. But due to the trend of converting sport fields into other purposes, almost 95 per cent of schools in Lagos cannot boast of a mini or standard sport facilities. These have greatly affected the expected result education should serve. Most hidden talents are left untapped because they are not discovered; this has greatly affected the nation’s performance at continental and global levels. Players like Henry Nwosu and the Late Stephen Keshi were discovered as teenagers during Nigeria’s glorious sporting years.”
Oshoare said the nation’s glorious sporting years could return if those in charge of sport and education synergised by sending coaches to schools to hunt for talents. He added that if organisers work with sponsors from the private sector, the nation could get back to a better sporting development era.
Similarly, a teacher, Morayo Oyin-Adejobi, said students have to participate in sporting activities to boost their confidence, mental alertness and self-esteem. According to her, sport also teaches leadership, team spirit and social skills.
Oyin-Adejobi, who was the second runner up at this year’s ‘Teachers Naija reality TV show,’ said: “Schools, whether public or private, should consider all-round development of their students, thereby providing facilities needed to encourage enrollment and make school environments attractive.
“Some schools are forced to shrink their recreational facilities due to the economic situation of the country. Getting standard sporting facilities is quite expensive. Rather than investing heavily on this, schools prefer to divert such funds to other things, which can fetch them immediate returns.”
Oyin-Adejobi said hiring coaches, such as dance or swimming instructors is an additional burden on schools, as those do not bring immediate gain. She said this is why Physical Health Education (PHE) teachers employed by schools teach other subjects aside from their main course of study.
She said: “This overburdens the teacher who cannot give his best. In cases where the PHE teacher faces his line of duty strictly, the teacher to student ratio is not encouraging. Some schools pay rent, which makes it difficult for them to invest heavily on sporting equipment. They have to move from site to site. A school on a temporary site cannot boast of a swimming pool.”
The teacher stressed the need for schools to have sporting activities to build team spirit, mental alertness and problem-solving skills of students.
She said this would help improve sleep; build healthy learners as this reduces formation of fat in the body system and instill discipline. This is in addition to building leadership and mentorship skills, encouraging accountability, boosting self-esteem and self-defence.
Oyin-Adejobi noted that sporting activities, such as Judo, wrestling, boxing, and taekwondo have saved a lot of people in the face of danger.
“Nigeria’s poor performance in the last Olympic games was due to a lot of factors. Most athletes are owed allowances, live and train under poor conditions and do not enjoy proper health and life insurance, among others. Some athletes presented for events are not necessarily the best but because of emotional attachments, bribery and favouritism; we ended up presenting our average but not the best.
“Many of our non-governmental organisations, corporate bodies and individuals prefer to sponsor programmes that have little or no social value to the nation. Allocation for sports in the yearly budget should be increased and properly monitored,” she advised.
Another teacher, Maharufudeen Dehinsilu-Isa, said most private schools don’t have spaces for sporting activities. He lamented that even the yearly inter-house sports competition where talents are discovered is either dead or has become mere exercise without the glory attached to it.
“Government itself understood the benefits of sports, that is why they introduced extra-curricula activities in the curriculum. Research has shown the numerous benefits of sports in the building of the child, which cannot be over-emphasised.
“We should go back to the days of Youth Sport Festival (YOUTHFON), where students competed freely and good athletes were picked, nurtured and groomed to represent the state (country) at international level,” Dehinsilu-Isa said. He said in the days of the Principal Cup, players like Henry Nwosu of St Finbars College, Samson Siasia and many more were picked from such competitions.
An agricultural consultant, Elesho James, equally toes the same line. He said most schools in Lagos don’t even plan sporting centres/recreation centres with their initial architectural plan. He stated that 90 per cent of private schools in Lagos have no sporting centre at all. “All they do is to rent the nearest public school for their sporting event.”
James stressed that it is important for every school to have a sporting/recreational centre, as this would encourage students to develop interest in sport and other recreation activities.
He said governments at all levels should make available modern sporting facilities and include sports in the curriculum as compulsory subject. “All the coaches in our different sporting federations should be trained and retrained,” he advised.
School Manager, Metropolitan Primary School, Sari Iganmu, Apapa, Abiodun Julius Idowu, believes that the development of sport starts from the schools. He said this could only be achieved through activities performed on the field; warning that lack of these facilities will make it impossible for active training of the athletes.
Idowu noted that in some schools, the little space meant for sporting events have been used for the erection of more classrooms, which is seriously affecting the psychomotor domain of learning. He said by embracing creation of more sports facilities, pupils would participate in sports actively, while coaches or sport teachers would be interested to teach or train them. The school manager stressed that more investment in school sport facilities would ultimately lead to the discovery of future young stars that will win laurels for the country.