The sad, sad fate of sports education

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BY LAJU ARENYEKA

With the 2014 World Cup, eyes all over the world are fixed on sports. Football, Nigeria’s number one game is the very focus of world attention. Sports have been known to cut across race, language and religious barriers. It is no wonder, many countries structure their education system such that a huge pool of talent in different fields of play is discovered and trained alongside classroom education.
Sadly, this is not the fate of sports education in Nigeria.

Many schools are bereft of qualified professionals and equipment that should serve as fertile ground for sports to grow. Mobolaji Ade, a track and field coach at a secondary school in Lagos argued that ‘most primary and secondary schools do not have coaches or trainers.’ He said: ‘Across many schools, you’ll find someone who studied Mathematics or Chemistry or some other unrelated subject serving as coach. Some schools do little or no sports activities. Sports education has not been given its rightful place.’

President of the Nigerian Handballers Association, and Director of Sports at Kogi State University, said that the commitment of the government and the Curriculum to sports at the Primary, Secondary and Tertiary levels is extremely bad. ‘At every level,’ he said, ‘we should have a solid, progressive developmental programme where people are being trained from infancy to adulthood on a regular basis. It should be part of the education system.
At the secondary level, students who are talented in the area of sports should be able to attend special schools, which have sports as their focus, and at the tertiary level, they should be able to specialize in sports.’

From Lagos to Lafia, hopeful young children with makeshift nets and weathered balls, clad in slippers and worn vests play football in the middle of the streets in the hope of becoming the Enyeamas, Musas and Emenikes of tomorrow. Some even hope for unchartered territories in swimming, gymnastics and taekwando. So far, the school system has not turned out to be the best breeding ground for such hopefuls.

The essence of sports education cannot be overemphasized, and experts say that if the curriculum is restructured and well implemented, and professionals from the academia as well as the field are employed, quality sporting facilities are provided at every level, the face of sports in Nigeria can be revamped for good. Not just in football, but also across board.

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