Cape Town NGO teaches life skills to children through sport, even during pandemic

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Kids are taught life skills through sport at Ukhanyo Primary School.
Kids are taught life skills through sport at Ukhanyo Primary School.
  • Cape Town NGO CoolPlay has been around for more than a decade and has made it their mission to continue teaching school kids life skills through sport.
  • Siya Mayiya believes kids need to be exposed to sport in education.
  • Despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, the organisation has offered 1 150 life skill lessons in the first five months of 2021.

CoolPlay, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Cape Town, has made it its mission to continue teaching school children life skills by using sport to encourage them, even during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The NGO, which has been around for more than a decade, is operating from five hubs in the Western Cape.

CoolPlay CEO Tori Gardner said the organisation supported 21 schools in the province by encouraging "social-emotional learning and inculcating life skills via sport and life orientation lessons".

siya mayiya
"Learners that struggled academically now work very well in group activities as the concept of teamwork has been instilled in them," said teacher Siya Mayiya.
Supplied Supplied

"Khayelitsha, South Peninsula, the northern suburbs, Stellenbosch and the Koue Bokkeveld have been chosen as our main focus areas where we provide our services," she said.

According to Gardner, these areas have been identified because they have some of the "toughest scenarios" for kids to grow up in.

"Gangsterism, drugs, alcohol and school dropouts are prolific in these areas, and we've found that by utilising sport as a vehicle for change in a safe environment, under the guidance of positive role models, the narrative can be shifted and our learners often rise to become positive contributors to their community," she added.

Imange Tilongo (13) from Ukhanyo Primary School loves that CoolPlay teaches her life skills, including treating people equally and with respect.

"We learn life lessons that we don't normally get taught in classes. But since the organisation started using sport to teach us life lessons, it's been wonderful," she said.

According to Mayiya, pupils have developed leadership skills. They are more optimistic about their future in sport.
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Tilongo said the organisation's work at her school was keeping her busy and focused so that she had no time for "bad things".

According to Gardner, the 21 schools they have partnered with have been identified because the principals and teachers believe in the CoolPlay way and have seen the positive impact on the kids.

"Our coaches enjoy teaching these kids. Our way of approaching life has benefitted the learners. Our goal is to create further depth in those 21 schools and make a meaningful impact in the specific hubs we have identified," she said.

READ | Education interrupted: Time to talk about the future of our children

Gardner said despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, they have offered 1 150 life skill sessions in the first five months of 2021.

"The pressures and effects of the pandemic have been felt at every level, however, even more so where the communities are living with such limited resources. We were lucky enough to still be able to respond with agility and continue to provide positive interactions and fun in safe spaces and engage with 3 149 learners," Gardner said.

Siya Mayiya, 29, a teacher for the past five years, told News24 that CoolPlay has done "wonders" for the youth.

"As an educator, I believe that kids need to be exposed to sports in education. Learners that struggled academically now work very well in group activities as the concept of teamwork has been instilled in them," he said.

siya mayiya
As an educator, I believe that kids need to be exposed to sports in education," said Mayiya.
Supplied Supplied

Mayiya recently wrote to the organisation, thanking it for the work being done for the kids during the pandemic.

In his letter, Mayiya said the kids were more disciplined and their self-esteem had improved dramatically.

According to Mayiya, the pupils had also developed leadership skills. They were more optimistic about their future in sport and that had positive outcomes in the community as most of them also took part in sport within the community.

"This also keeps them away from bad influences and social ills like drug abuse and gangsterism," he said.

Coach Feziwe Payi, 35, said teaching sport through education was amazing as the children were very eager to learn while staying active.

She said:

I enjoy being around the kids. To try and listen and understand them is a wonderful and enjoyable skill to hold. These kids have so much passion for life and often just want someone to listen to them speak.

Payi said seeing the children open up while they are around each other during the life skill lessons is a wonderful experience.

"When they first joined in the programmes, they were very shy. But as time goes on it's amazing to see how they've overcome their shyness and are now keen to partake in any discussions and lesson," Payi said.

Many local organisations and individuals have supported CoolPlay over the years. CoolPlay has also been recognised by both the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and The Allan and Gill Gray Foundation, which has recently provided critical funding.

Saleem Sonday, head of group savings and investments at Allan Gray, nominated CoolPlay as one of the charities for consideration in Allan Gray's philanthropy initiative.

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