Children play chess, meet Zuma

2011-12-23 07:50

Zanele Madela of Inkandla is only eight years old but she is already a force to be reckoned with in chess.

She is one of hundreds of school children in Nkandla who have taken up chess thanks to a community-based project, KwaZulu Chess, which aims to introduce the sport in rural areas.

Since 2009 when the initiative started, President Jacob Zuma, has attended all three instalments of the JZ Chess Championships at the end of each year.

“I approached the president about the idea and he was sold on it because he is a chess lover himself. His presence is a big boost. These children get to see themselves as very special since ubaba takes time out of his special schedule and comes yearly to play and engage with them,” said Sihle Xulu, the man behind the initiative.

Born and bred in Nkandla, Xulu said he was introduced to chess when he was studying in Durban.

“We don’t see chess as just a sport. Chess is associated with intelligence and critical thinking. You have to sit, create and structure a plan. Every move has a consequence which articulates the same in life. It’s how you respond if you do make a mistake.”

Addressing about 100 children who participated in this year’s tournament this week, Zuma said he was pleased about the increased interest in chess by the children of Nkandla.

“Chess is the biggest school to improve your thinking. It helps you think right and to think scientifically. It teaches patience and discipline. I’m sure if you play chess we’ll have more presidents coming out of Nkandla,” Zuma told the children.

Zuma added that he wanted chess as a subject in schools.

Although little Zanele fell sick and had to drop out of Tuesday’s competition, she came out the biggest winner after receiving a full bursary from Singatha Africa Management Services, Quantity Surveying and Project Management who attended the tournament.

The scholarship will take Zanele, who is in Grade 3 next year, up to matric.

Zanele was too shy to talk to City Press but her teary-eyed aunt Khanyisile Masondo, who is also her guardian, said the scholarship would help a lot since Zanele’s mom, a domestic worker, struggled.

According to Xulu, Zanele started the game when she was six years old as a result of weekend initiative to teach chess to people in the community.

“She was actually taught by Lethukuthula Xulu who is our programme coordinator. He is a teacher in one of the local schools and has 90% of children in his school playing competitively. But he also does community projects over the weekend.”

Reg Hoddinott, president of the KwaZulu-Natal Chess Union, said initiatives such as these were essential to promote the game if we were to reap the benefits of South Africa being masters of the game.

“We have won the bid to host the World Youth Chess Championship in 2014 and we are talking about 14- to 15-year-olds who are grand masters of the game. To move to that level we need to copy and paste this idea around the country and have more people like the president stand behind it,” said Hoddinott.

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