The Sports Stepping Stones (SSS) coaches academy hosted its annul sports festival at the Vygieskraal rugby field in Athlone last week. More than a thousand children from various underprivileged areas participated in the three-day event, which took placefrom Tuesday to Thursday. SSS founder Abubkr “Boebie” Cassiem says the sports programme is one of many to keep children off the streets.“This festival takes place every term after the school exams, simply to keep children busy during the time they do not go to school and when teachers are occupied with marking. “The minister of education mentioned that two-thirds of school kids are on drugs. There is no need for them to use drugs. We aim to keep them here instead, and to have a clean festival educating them on the importance of sports and enjoying life through beneficial programmes,” he says.Cassiem says more than 27 schools participated in this year’s event sponsored by the Western Cape education department and local business Africa First. “These kids competed in soccer, rugby, netball and hockey tournaments, as well as the marching band competition and talent show. “There were many schools participating simply because there are no sports at their schools. They are enjoying every bit of it,” he explains.Carmelita Prinsloo, coordinator of the Safe Schools programme in the education department’s Metro Central district, says the department has a close relationship with SSS. “We brought the various resources together so we can have mass participation in order to ensure we reach many more kids than what we do on our own. “It is important to see kids play, but also to develop sports in poorer communities across the city. What is even more important is that there is great hype amongst the kids [who participated]. To see the children can really enjoy themselves within the context of their full ability, is amazing,” she says.Cassiem urges local businesses to come on board. “If kids are busy with sports, they don’t break and vandalise your premises. This is what every child wants to do: They want to play, and we give them the opportunity and safe haven to do so. We use this as an educational programme to show them how it is important to participate under their school umbrella in order to stay in school,” he says. “We hope the festival will have more support so we can provide for the children. We have the manpower but we do not have the funding. “We hope the relationship with our partners will last so we can get more kids to benefit from this initiative.” V For more information on Sports Stepping Stones contact Shamiela de Villiers on 084 264 1108, 072 187 4058 or email@example.com.