The Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) seems to be on a surer footing for the return of school sports next year after a long absence due to budgetary constraints in March 2020.
This came to light in an interview with the CEO of BNSC, Tuelo Serufho, primarily about Botswana Games this year. “Unfortunately we will not be having Botswana Games this year,” he said. “What we have decided is to blend Botswana Games with school sports in such way that Botswana Games will be the national finals of school sports. It was a biennial event in the past, being held once every two years. But under the new model, Botswana Games will be held every year around December.”
According to Serufho, Botswana Games will not be held this year to make way for the return of school sports after the prolonged absence. “As a result, we cannot have the finals but we are optimistic that school sports will resume in public schools next year and we will then have the national finals as the Botswana Games,” he said.
According to the BNSC website, Botswana Games were conceptualised in 2005. The idea was to have a national multiple-sports event that could be used to prepare young Batswana athletes of 19 years of age and under for international multiple-sports competitions.
The envisaged competitions includes the African Union Sports Council Region 5 (AUSC Region 5), the Under 20 Youth Games, the All Africa Games, the Commonwealth Games and the Olympic Games.
Talent across the country
So far Botswana games have been held biennially where athletes representing their respective districts compete in a range of sporting codes. Among the purposes was unearthing talent across the country, affording young and emerging athletes an opportunity to enter a variety of international competitions.
Selecting youth teams and preparing them for international sporting events, such as the AUSC Region 5, the Under 20 Youth Games and the All Africa Games was also meant to give sports administrators at home an opportunity to practise for hosting mega international events. Meanwhile, the absence of school sports in public schools has been a major concern for many, with Dr Tshepang Tshube, lecturer in the sports science at the University of Botswana, once telling this publication that it is affecting the country’s talent development.
“And it is evident in the current results but it will show more when we go to the African Games as well as other major international competitions next year, he said in a previous interview. “It will show throughput in subsequent games.
“We have seen, for example, that our athletics performance is the one that reshaped the medals table at the Games. Had it not been for athletics stepping up to rescue the situation, it could have been worse. But even athletics performance was not at the level we expect it to be at.” Tshube noted that school sports is important as it does three fundamental things. “The first thing that is does is that it identifies talent – teachers in schools identify athletes that are talented,” he said.
“In addition, there is continuous training, which is talent development. The third thing is selecting athletes for competitions. School sports enables different sporting codes to select top talents that can represent them at various competitions.”
The leading sports academic asserted that the absence of school sports means it is difficult to identify young athletes. “Some of them fall through the cracks,” he said. “It is also difficult to develop them because there is no formalised standard structure that develops them and there is no way of clearly selecting talented athletes. “Athletes that competed at the AUSC are good, but it is possible that we have other athletes who could have been in the team but were not because the selection process was very compromised due to the absence of schools sports.”