The New Times (Kigali)

10 November 2012

Rwanda: Producing All Rounders Should Be Priority for Country's Education

opinion

The mini hullaballoo about the naturalised high earning basketball players in the national team, is as surprising, as to why there are few 'indigenous' Rwandans able to play at the professional level in basketball.

This reminds me of the time when the national soccer side had a great deal of players who had also been naturalised. In the first instance, it is surprising that, given the fact that Rwanda allows foreigners to acquire citizenship after taking citizenship examinations, there shouldn't be hullabaloo about former foreigners who have acquired national citizenship going on to represent the country.

Unless, they have not gotten the required citizenship, there should be no problem. Obviously, the issue is about the money paid to them or spent on them. But that should never be the case in a free market.

Everyone has his own price. Anyone who follows the NBA or the premiership league of England, knows that different players earn disproportionately different wages. It is about demand and supply issues like in any other business.

Anyhow, it appears the real problem, as captured in this newspaper's Friday editorial, is that the money spent on these players, could be put to better use. Using the money to create facilities and nurture local talent, it seems is what is missing and what those taking issue with Ferwaba, are all about.

Basketball, like all other games, has a kind of human physical build that suits best. A look at the American NBA tells it all. Rwanda does not lack in that aspect. What is important is that our education system is most probably not being tapped as a reservoir of talent for sports development.

Schools should be required to set up a minimum of sporting facilities for them to be licensed to offer education. For example having a sports field, should be a basic requirement for all schools and be enforced. More so, district sports competitions should not be allowed to go into abeyance. At the same time, social centers for youth to engage in sports should be aggressively pursued.

This can not only help in promoting a sporting culture, but is also key to avoiding idleness among our youth and the resultant moral degeneration. Sometimes, I tend to think that bars and nightspots attract more youths these days than sports and other youth development activities. One wonders whether we have a commissioner or director for sports in the ministry of education.

Whereas there is visible interest in sports promotion at the national leadership level, it appears the grassroots are not as involved, which in a way, waters down the efforts of the leaders and sports administrators. Long term strategic planning is the only way forward.

Many sporting greats in European soccer or the American National Basketball Association are products of academies that identify talented children and develop them over a protracted period of time, and there can never be two ways about it.

Children of 'these days' are always likely to be more physically fit to become basketballers like never before. Sports enthusiasts should never be shy to take advantage and turn these physical traits into great talent that can not only put to an end the need to spend money on foreign based players, but Rwanda can become one of the countries that export such talent.

Anyone remember Manute Bol from South Sudan. How about the exploits of Dikembe Mutombo of the DRC. After being spotted during his youth, he went on to become a great player in the NBA and managed to amass a fortune and now his humanitarian work is something to be reckoned with. And key to this success is his natural physical traits, which seem to be in abundant supply in Rwanda.

For schools, it must be realised that the time, when the best schools had to be judged strictly on academic performance are long gone. If any school concentrates on academic achievement while neglecting other aspects of human growth like sports, then they are getting it wrong. Sadly for such schools, success in life does not necessarily depend on academic achievement, so do not give your students a raw deal in life.

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