Sport Stepping Stones (SSS) kicked off with their annual sports tournament at Downberg Road Sports Complex in Hanover Park, last Wednesday.The two-day event in collaboration with the Western Cape Education Department attracted more than 300 children, with the aim to keep them off the streets during the school holidays.Learners from various schools on the Cape Flats (including schools in Hanover Park, Manenberg and Athlone) took part in the tournament, where touch rugby, soccer and netball were played.“This is a festival that we host every term, after the school exams when children are doing nothing. The main purpose of this event was to keep them from turning to drugs or gangsterism, which is easily influenced in this area, during this period,” explains SSS founder Abubkr Cassiem. “The respective schools that participated this year had first practised for the sports competition, and then arranged for their teams to compete. We also had a marching competition on the second day, where several local squads competed for first place.”Only 14 schools participated in this year’s sports tournament – six fewer schools than last year, due to the current gang violence happening in the area.“Because of what is currently happening, it was difficult for all the invited schools to come out and to join in on the festivities. It was also very difficult for them (teams) to travel through this community during this time.“Some schools were also still busy with assessments and could not attend, but the schools that were not were here to participate and enjoyed every bit of the two-day programme,” adds Cassiem.The tournament, which forms part of the education department’s Safe Schools Programme and the School Enrichment Programme, included the presentation of trophies to both the winners and runners-ups, which aimed to instil that everyone is a winner.“We are involved with the safety of learners at these schools and try to collaborate with organisations such as SSS to enhance their development and to keep learners from the streets.“Due to their daily environment, we try to host these programmes in their community, in order to keep children occupied during this time.“What we have done is we’ve looked at all the schools that we normally ask to participate, [and they are] those schools where learners are either on the fringes of gangsterism [because the school is located in a gang-invested area]. What we are doing is we are saying to that type of child that can’t play during school time or after school we will arrange a certain time and venue for that child to actually have time to be a child and play,” says Safe Schools district coordinator, Carmelita Prinsloo. Safe Schools aims to oversee the safety of all the schools under the district coordinator, according to Prinsloo.“It is important for communities to take charge of their own areas where they live in order to ensure that our children have their right to play and to be a child. “In the same sense we have people that are actively part of community upliftment. We will be able to ensure that the children are safe within our own communities,” she explains.As stated by Prinsloo, Safe Schools hosts holiday programmes in high crime-infested areas and is trying to ensure that there is development for learners within the communities, irrespective of the violence in the community.“What is important for me as a Safe Schools coordinator is that it is important for the community to take charge. This is their children, this is our children, we need to give our very best when it comes to our kids,” concludes Prinsloo. The School Enrichment Programme supplied the school with a set of marching band drums. “It is about participation and the marching band actually involves many learners so that is why my drive to push the schools. It also instils discipline among the learners. The Marching Association sends coaches to schools in need. At the schools you have teachers that would like to do it but are not able to do it because of the technicalities involved in the marching. We have had lots of positive responses from principals about the kids that are a part of the marching band. So I do believe that it’s going to really benefit the learners when it comes to a sporting programme like this,” says school enrichment coordinator Shaheeda Majiet.According to Majiet, this is the second year in a row the organisation is involved in the festival. She also says that it is their duty to ensure that sports, arts and culture take place within the school structure. Majiet also wants to encourage more schools to participate and to not always use gang violence as a reason not to engage the learners in activities.