LET ME begin by congratulating T. I. Ahmadiyya Secondary School, Kumasi, on its impressive and unprecedented performance in sports, in the 2008/2009 Academic Year.
At the annual games, organised by the Ashanti Region branch of the Schools and Colleges Sports Federation, the school swept almost every trophy in sight.
Both the girls and the boys topped their Zone, that is, Zone One, in the athletics competition. Both teams then went on to win the Super-Zonal championship trophies.
In addition, the boys broke the then existing records in the 400 metres race, the 4 x 400 metres, the 4 x 100 metres races, the long jump and the triple jump. The girls broke the 400 metres hurdles record. In addition, the girls won the cross-country race, and the handball trophy.
Not to be outdone, the boys also won the handball trophy. To crown it all, the school was adjudged the Best Behaved School at the Super-Zonal Championships, held over a two-day period.
While the performance was unprecedented, the school was merely stating that almost sixty years after its founding, it was still a great school in point of sports, discipline and academic work.
Congratulations to the Headmaster, Mr. Y. K. Agyare, the School Administration, the Physical Education tutors, other tutors of the school, non-teaching staff, the athletes, the student-body, the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), the Board of Governors and all those who had something to do with the outstanding performance of the students, by way of prayers, financial and material contributions and moral support.
It is a good thing that the new, youthful Minister of Youth and Sports, Alhaji Mubarak Muntaka, was present to close the games.
While his mandate covers a wider area than sports in our schools, his Ministry, and that of Education, have to work closely together to ensure that the country produces sports men and women, who, apart from excelling in the sporting field, can also hold their own in academic work and sound moral behaviour.
At least, one can suppose that Mr. Alex Tettey-Enyo, Minister of Education, is very much aware of the problems of organising sports in our schools, from the basic to the second cycle, and, possibly, beyond. The first of these problems is the cost involved. Alhaji Muntaka must have noticed the smart turn-out of the athletes, their running shorts, shirts and beautiful track suits. If he had enquired, he would have learnt that the sports kits were not provided by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
It is quite true that the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service provide a sports subsidy. However, at the current rate of 80Gp per student per term, the subsidy is laughably inadequate for the proper running of sports in our schools.
Football boots, jerseys, running spikes, running shorts and shirts and track suits are terribly expensive, so expensive that the schools sometimes have to rely on second-hand items.
Proper pre-championship games training means having to have such items as javelins, shot-putts and the discus, as well as the equipment for the high jump and the pole vault. Goal-keepers must have gloves.
What about table tennis tables, balls, nets and bats? Or nets and balls for volley? Or hockey sticks and shin guards for the schools that have the facilities for such games?
When training starts in real earnest, the schools have to provide various incentives to motivate these sports boys and girls. Post-training snacks must be provided, and a special menu has to be drawn for them.
The schools cannot rely on the sports subsidy, which, like other subsidies, is hardly ever received on time. Benevolent individuals and organisations may contribute money or materials. Other contributions in cash and in kind may come from the association of past students and the PTA.
When it is time for the Zonal and Super-Zonal competitions in the Ashanti Region, competing schools outside Kumasi must transport their student/athletes and supporters at great cost.
The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Youth and Sports should pay more attention to the organisation of school sports, than they appear to be doing at the moment.
Another area in which the two Ministries should come together to co-operate with the school authorities and the Sports Federation, is the maintenance of discipline during sports competitions, especially football and athletics.
During these competitions, there are usually large concentrations of students. Some go to the meeting place to cheer their schools. Other, however, see the period of the competition as a wonderful opportunity to indulge in acts of indiscipline.
They provoke students from other schools, fight, throw stones, even invade other schools and cause mayhem, drink and reportedly indulge in immoral sexual acts.
Every year, school authorities and the Schools and Colleges Sports Federation go to extraordinary lengths to maintain discipline. Unfortunately, they cannot be everywhere at once, and not every infraction of the law is brought to their notice.
It is important that the two ministries continue to support the schools and the Federation, even to the point where dismissals could be a last resort. Indulging in acts of indiscipline contradicts the very purposes of sports, one of which is the maintenance of discipline.
When he closed the Ashanti Region Super-Zonal competition, Alhaji Muntaka made the interesting suggestion that the schools should be given the power to admit students who may not have made the grade, but who show promise in sports.
That used to be the case until the computer admissions. There were positive results. Unfortunately, there was a negative side too. Some school heads and their Physical Education tutors simply raided schools and poached capable student sportsmen and women from those schools.
The action of such heads and their Physical Education tutors produced bad blood between the heads of such schools, and the aggrieved ones. In some cases, the shamelessness was too much.
In any case, as used to be the case years ago, it is possible to have students who are at once brilliant at school work and in sports. Such students took their sporting and academic brains all the way to the university and beyond.
We have such students today, and they should be encouraged to give of their best. Once more, I congratulate T. I. Ahmadiyya Secondary School, Kumasi.
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