Abuja – Plans are underway to make participating in sporting activities compulsory for all primary and secondary school pupils in the country.
President Goodluck Jonathan disclosed this in Abuja on Thursday at the launching of the national mobilisation campaign for grassroots sports tagged: “Rhythm and Play’’.
“The aim is to nurture athletes for the country for international competitions and through this effort, we intend to bring physical education back to our schools.’’
He noted that the idea was a fallout of the presidential retreat on sports organised last October which was also “aimed at building a worthy nation for the younger people.’’
“Late last year, we convened a retreat on sports which did not only analyse the challenges in sports but also came up with a clear roadmap for its development in the short, medium and long term.
“The programme that we are launching today will provide young Nigerians under the age of 17 with structured programmes that combine sports and play as critical learning and development tools.
“This initiative will revolutionalise grass roots sports in Nigeria. Our target is to introduce two million additional children to sports over the next two years.
“In this regard, we have directed the National Sports Commission and the Federal Ministry of Education to work toward achieving this target,’’ Jonathan said.
He said that the country had done well in sports in recent times and measures were needed to be put in place to ensure that the successes recorded were sustained.
He emphasised the need to give grass roots sports development serious attention as sports was a veritable tool for fostering cohesion and nation building.
“So far we have done well in our efforts to fly the country’s colours at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil going by the results so far, we are very hopeful.
“We must build on this momentum and trend; we must take every step to ensure that our successes are sustained.
“We believe that grassroots sports development and nurturing will provide the way for our country,’’ the president added.
Sports minister, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi said that the NSC would collaborate with government in the 36 states and the FCT to get additional two million children across Nigeria to take to sports.
“To achieve this, every state of the federation including the FCT is expected to identify 2,200 children with potentials every month,’’ Abdullahi said.
He said that the NSC would work through its 12 zonal offices in the country to establish sports clubs in all secondary schools across the country.
The NSC zonal offices are located in Ibadan, Akure, Benin, Port Harcourt, Enugu, Nguru (Imo), Jos, Minna, Kaduna, Sokoto, Bauchi and Damaturu.
“What we are going to do is to target 22 schools in a state; if we are able to get 100 children in 22 schools in a state across the country, we are going to have 2,200 children per state every month.
“This will amount to about 80,000 children in a month across the country and in two years will be able to deliver almost two million children that will play sports.
“Under the “rhythm and play’’ programme, we are going to provide a platform of opportunity for children of school age to participate in sporting activities.
“We are going to leverage on existing competitions and championships to increase participation in grass roots sports.
“We are going to use this platform to attract private sector sponsorship to academia sports and youth sports activities.
“We are also going to use the framework to nurture Nigeria’s future global champions and propel them to the podium play level,’’ Abdullahi said.
The minister gave assurance that the NSC would train games masters for the programme and deliver sports equipment to all the schools.
The “Rhythm and Play’’ is an exciting youth-friendly campaign aimed at enhancing mass youth participation in sporting activities and age grade competitions.
It is also NSC’s flagship programme, which will rely heavily on the use of music, dance and celebrities to mobilise children to participate in sports for grass roots development. (NAN)