To encourage sustainable peer-led social change among the youth by using sports as a tool to leverage peer influence through increased life skills abilities, including developing leadership skills, reducing at-risk behaviors, improving social connectedness, health awareness, and encouraging responsible citizenship in a fun and interactive way.
Umzingisi Foundation actively promotes and enhances opportunities for children in Nelson Mandela Bay's previously disadvantaged communities to take part in structured sport and life skills sessions. South Africa is a socially diverse country where the gap between rich and poor is vast. The country competes at the top level in several international sports yet the huge majority of children from historically disadvantaged areas are not afforded the same opportunities as those from traditionally privileged backgrounds.
Umzingisi works in schools in the townships of iBhayi and the Northern Areas, where the communities are left disadvantaged from the historical struggle against apartheid. Umzingisi is committed to developing life skills through sport amongst the disadvantaged and vulnerable youth on a mass participation level. Sport programmes are run in local communities focusing on rugby, netball, cricket, soccer, hockey, swimming, and tennis. The aim of these projects is to empower citizens and consolidate communities in their social, institutional and economic wellbeing and sustainability.
Project Needs Analysis / Rationale
Township schools lack physical education on their syllabuses for a multitude of reasons. There is little motivation from the national government to assist schools in providing physical education. In fact, it is estimated that in 2005 the government spent as little as 40c on the physical education of each child in the country. Hence, it is up to the schools themselves to go the extra mile if they wish to provide their students with any kind of sporting activity. There are few teachers trained to coach and lead sports and certainly no jobs for those who specialise in physical education.
This neglect of physical education leads to a stagnation in the development of young adults and they miss out on the social, cognitive and, most importantly, holistic benefits of participating in sport. Moreover, many challenges faced by South African children and youth derive from constant exposure to high-levels of at-risk situations, making them vulnerable, fragile and easy to manipulate. This often results in at-risk behavior compensating insufficient social abilities as well as limited approaches toward conflict resolution, limited knowledge of ways to improve and maintain health and generally limited life opportunities. Illnesses, unemployment, malnutrition, violence, alcoholism and extreme poverty are still forcing many of the Nelson Mandela Bay’s estimated 1.3 million inhabitants to live in critical conditions. As in other parts of the country, an estimated 32% live with HIV/AIDS and nearly 60% of the people in the townships are unemployed. As these misfortunes claim the lives of the generation recovering from apartheid, many children are staying with neighbors, aunts, grandparents, or on their own. Now more than ever, peers and siblings are playing an increasingly vital role in the socialization of South African youth. Our programs are focused on using sport to develop life skills and raise awareness on a variety of social and health issues which are a daily challenge to beneficiaries.
Our YDS programmes have a proven track record, which shows the tremendous potential of sport to impact educational aspirations, grades and achievement scores, self-esteem, self-confidence and social connectedness to reduce delinquency and school drop-outs. Our efforts provide a complement to a traditional mentoring / role model strategy by empowering the young participants to take responsibility and be sustainable change agents within the community. The Project curriculum emphasizes ongoing active and experiential learning, and includes tactics for the beneficiaries to “get the message out” to their two core social groups: peers and siblings.
Umzingisi’s approach is to create sustainable change by motivating the participants to become opinion leaders in their social network of peers and siblings. Research supports the strong influence of positive peer relations, with peer-led groups resulting in significant improvement in knowledge compared to teacher-led groups. The impact of our Project hence goes beyond its immediate beneficiaries and positively influences peers and siblings not directly involved. The initiative is a prototype, which will inspire further growth points and replications of such after-school activities focusing on similar outcome measures. Our Project aligns itself with government and corporate interest in strengthening leadership capacities and in strengthening the capacity of communities through sustainable social change. It is also in line with the efforts aimed at attaining the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.