School Sports In Nigeria: A Means of Youth Engagement, Job Creation
“I don’t like school, and I don’t want to go to school. Those who have gone have nothing to show for it. They are like us. We stand together in betting shops, throw banters and talk about football for hours. Like us, they are jobless too. I see our brothers in the area, ‘they just dey waka about’... nothing to take home. They still feed from their mothers’ pots and take nothing home. I’m not going.”
These were the words of a 17-year old boy this writer met on a local football pitch in Sasha, Ibadan, Oyo State. Skillful, energetic and strong, his quality made me take keen interest in his game, and world, he’s good. I could also tell he isn’t in school. Apparently, he wasn’t interested. He just wanted to rise on the streets, get a sponsor and play local or international football. This is the desire of many. A lot of youths want this, and they want to be at the driving seat, earning big bucks and getting famous for their skill. Being skilled pays, Nigeria has shown. The youths who thrive today are those who have looked beyond the four walls of their respective classrooms or institutions. However, in a very saturated sector like sports in Nigeria, education is a reliable tool for continuous importance. The boy does not like the idea of the classroom. He just wants to play but he could even be closer to his desires by being in school.
This will happen when there is a strong and highly efficient programme for youth engagement in sports. School Sports is the government’s best bet at keeping youth engaged and they don’t even have to spend a dim doing it. Corporate investors will be more than willing to sponsor such programmes as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR). There is an embarrassment of talents all over Nigeria, in arts and sports. While government interference has improved in the areas of youth engagement in the arts, little or nothing has been happening in engaging them through sports.
Teenagers are fast moving into cybercrime, because they don’t have enough role models and those they see as successful are the same criminals that are new gods in our society. The establishment of school sports programmes will get us closer to finding athletes for events. The Olympics will be our new forte and a lot of things will change from there. Other than having more youths being encouraged, through seeing their peers in international competitions, Nigeria will become a talent pool for the world. Like our musicians have worked hard to project our image globally, and helping to deconstruct a rather maligning and belittling notion of who we are as a people, much more younger sportsmen can give us a wider reach. In the pastime, Nigeria took athletes of all kinds from events round the country.
While Shell BP hosted the Shell Cup football competition for Secondary Schools in the country, ExxonMobil sponsored athletics events. Much more focus has to be placed on getting the best of the coming generation, keeping those who thrive in sports in the classroom, as such that if anything unwanted happens, they’ll have a second option. Daniel Joshua is a former world champion. He was part of Nigeria’s Under-17 team to the 2007 World Youth Championship in China. An ever-present member of the team, a tragic event shortly after the competition put paid to Joshua’s football dreams. He suffered an automobile accident on his way to his club base in Niger State. He had survived death by whiskers, but damaged his spinal cord. Joshua spent all the he made from football on walking again, and he did. But he had gotten broke and grounded that he needed to have a means of living. The career he had nurtured all his life had fizzled away in one nasty accident, yet he had to live.
A very good defender when he played, he has written UTME again and wants to continue his education from where he left off. If football does not pave a way, education will. As much as this is not pleasant occurence, such is the fickle nature of life that things change in little or no time. This is the impression that should be instilled in youths. Governments across all levels must be conscious about the need to use sports as a veritable tool for social engagement of the youths. They should help promote as many people as possible, especially those that stand out and this can be done by helping them with scholarship programmes in both local and foreign universities and other higher institutions of learning. The National School Sports Federation (NSSF) was established for the purpose of taking youths off the street and bringing them to schools, and keeping them engaged through sports. However, the last few years have seen a lack of activities from the body.
Youths are hardly engaged again and education has been made boring without sports as a worthy extracurricular activity for these pupils. Several checks by Accountable Nigeria shows schools hardly engage in sports again, with many private schools even lacking playgrounds. This means the importance of sports to a child’s development has been relegated, and the opportunities that may arise for those who thrive in sports amongst them is scuttled. Nigeria’s current unemployment rate of 27.1% could be significantly helped by creating better sports facilities to make students thrive and build careers, right from the scratch. Without gainsaying, some companies have tried and carried the dream to see better Nigerian youths. Some of these companies are: Milo, who have been running basketball clinics for secondary school students for years now. Maltina is also a veritable example with its recent inter-secondary school games. Channels Television has also gone a long way with its Channels Kids Cup - a national football competition for primary school pupils. While these are impressive, a lot more youth engagement will help curb crime and joblessness in the society and it is ingrained as part of the duties of the NSSF.
Some of the functions of the NSSF are:
1. Provides Forum For Sports Development In Schools The Nigerian school sports federation is saddled with the responsibility of the development and growth of sports in Nigerian schools. This forum created by the Nigerian school sports federation will avail the stakeholders in the sports sector to come together with a view to discuss on a way forward towards the development and growth of sports in Nigerian schools, particularly, in primary and post-primary schools. And anything discussed and arrived at in this forum would be in line with the current international and national standard of school sports. The current techniques and rules and regulations that regulate sports in schools are taken into consideration at the forum.
2. Administers Sports In Primary And Post Primary Schools Administering sports activities in both the primary schools and post-primary schools remains the duty of the Nigerian school sports federation. The Nigerian school sports federation must see to it that sports in Nigerian schools are organised, coupled with the proper administration of school sports in Nigerian schools. In organizing such a school sports event, the Nigerian school sports federation is also charged with the duty of involving the state’s ministry of youths and sports to give some sort of technical support to the growth of school sports at different States of the federation.
3. Discovers Talented Athletes The Nigerian school sports federation, as one of the school sports development agencies in Nigeria, has saddled with the responsibility of discovering athletes who are talented, particularly, in different aspects of school sporting activities. Reason for this is obvious since sports development at the grassroots level actually begins at the schools level, and it is at this level, the school level that the Nigerian school sports federation would be able to discover talents for further development or training of the athletes to world-class spotters and sports stars.
4. Facilitates The Mandate Of Turning Nigeria To A Mecca Of Sportsmen And Women The Nigerian school sports federation is saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that the country Nigeria, by the virtue of its activities (the Nigerian school sports federation) activities, Is turned into a breeding ground of great sportswomen and sportsmen. In its target, the school sports federation has resorted to taking their activities from the primary schools and post-primary schools level. This level of school sports is considered by the Nigerian school sports federation as a veritable platform for sports development in the country.
5. Encourages School Sports Development In Nigeria The Nigerian school sports federation, being an affiliate of the international school sports federation is also charged with the responsibility of ensuring that school sports are encouraged within the Nigerian schools, through school sports encouragement by the Nigerian school sports federation, quite a number of talents are haunted through school sports activities, and as these talents are discovered, they are nurtured for excellence.
6. Provides Scholarship For Qualified Students And Athletes The Nigerian school sports federation is also saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that athletes or students who are qualified are encouraged by way of giving them the scholarship to further their academic pursuits. Such scholarship is not limited to the academic pursuit of qualified students, it goes beyond educational pursuits to that of sponsoring qualified athletes to pursue their career in any of the tertiary institutions either here in Nigeria or in a foreign country. By providing scholarship to these set of qualified individuals, the Nigerian school sports federation is attempting to set up a national sports policy.
7. Promotes Physical Education The Nigerian school sports federation remains one of the promoters of physical education through its functions in developing school sports in Nigerian schools. The Nigerian school sports federation over the years has effectively lived to its responsibility of haunting for talents at the primary schools and post-primary schools level through its responsibility of promoting school sports development thus, allowing every child to have access to physical education, because both the child’s academic pursuit and his access to physical education is what will guarantee full development of a child’s personality.
8. Encourages International School Sports Participation It has been the duty of the Nigerian school sports federation to encourage international school sports participation. The Nigerian school sports federation, being an affiliate of the international school sports federation with the sole responsibility of developing school sports across the country is also saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that athletes at the primary schools and participate during international sports festivals.
These functions are well outlined and clear but have been generally abandoned in the last five years. Nigeria’s future promises a lot but there must be good provisions for the upcoming generations and this cannot be achieved with the current lack of attention shown by relevant authorities. The study of physical education in primary and secondary schools has also been largely abandoned. This is because of the inadequacy of teachers and poor plans by the different authorities involved. The role of sports in the development of the youth can’t be overestimated and its importance to job creation is currently undervalued, yet has many benefits. School Sports must be revived to make the best of the future, and it starts from now, as Accountable Nigeria will keep making checks on schools to see and record the progresses being made.