Communities need to pull together and get SA’s children off the fat list

2015-06-05 17:43
Picture: File (Beeld)

Picture: File (Beeld)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories


How did South Africa get here?

Its children are the third most obese in the world

And, just as staggering, – only 10% of the country’s schools offer sport. 

That was the figure given to Parliament by Dr Willie Basson, secretary of the Eminent Persons Group that monitors transformation in sport, this week. 

This means that children going to 22 500 of the 25 000 primary and secondary schools in the country do not have access to sport. 

According to a study published in the South African Journal of Science in 2002, one of the two overriding causes of the increased prevalence of overweight and obesity in developing countries is a decline in physical activity. The other is, of course, diet. 

According to Professor Hans de Ridder of North West University’s school of biokinetics, recreation and sports science, “children who walk less than ten thousand paces per day run the risk of being diagnosed with chronic diseases such as obesity, high blood pressure, cholesterol or type 2 diabetes”. 

It was therefore crucially important that children be active from a young age. 

“They must play, do physical education at school, take part in sport and follow an active lifestyle,” the professor said. 

“The role our schools and especially the parents play in this regard is also extremely important to ensure that our South African children maintain an active and healthy lifestyle.” 

Easier said than done, evidently, says the alarming sport-in-schools statistic. 

First, what happened to the obligatory twice-a-week physical education classes? These used to be forced upon pupils, in school time. No bunking or shirking was allowed. It even went on your report card. Teachers were paid to tire out pupils. Some of them were rather sadistic. This was where we learnt how to do push-ups, jumping jacks and tummy crunches. Running, jumping and kicking were all mandatory, even for the less coordinated students. 

The biggest problem, seems to be that teachers, who were the driving force behind school sport, aren’t interested in taking on extra work. 

“[Teachers] say they are not paid for coaching sport, and all the changes in the syllabus have increased their workload. The departments of sport and of basic education will have to do something,” said Basson. 

So how does it work at the 10% of schools that still offer sport? According to a teacher at a government high school, every teacher at the school has to do some kind of extramural activity, be it cultural or sport. 

“We do get paid a very small amount, but I know that we are one in a million. Most other schools don’t get paid ... this is the first time I am.” 

A teacher at one of Johannesburg’s private schools said that all its teachers were encouraged to take an activity, whether it be sport, drama or culture. 

“We do not get paid extra to do extramurals – it is expected. However, when applying for a new job, extramurals make you more marketable. If you do an extramural you generally get paid a little more and this also gets taken into consideration when appraisals are done at the end of the year. You may get a 1% more increase in your salary.” 

So what about those schools that can’t afford an extra stipend for teachers? Maybe the answer lies in community involvement. Parents and past pupils of the schools should be involved. Local businesses could be rallied to donate balls and equipment. 

Running costs nothing. People don’t need the latest running shoes, or a Tartan Track. All it takes is motivation and encouragement. 

Footballs are relatively cheap, and goal posts can be made from two large rocks, if need be. Netball courts are a bit more tricky, and so are rugby fields, because the poles and nets are essential. And I wouldn’t advise anyone to play hockey without shoes, at least. But the departments of basic education and sport could also help out a bit here. After all, sports fields could be used by the entire community. 

We need to get our children – and our adults – moving. Before our children are named as the most obese in the world. That’s not something we want to be best at.

Read more on:    excercise  |  fat

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Financial advisors – Do you need one and should you get one?

The good, the bad, and everything else you need to know when considering hiring a financial advisor.


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.