How then, could training running in one direction be the only way to build better play?
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How then, could training running in one direction be the only way to build better play?
Kibera, Africa’s largest and poorest slum, is characterized by drug & alcohol abuse, violence & crime. Poverty is acute, where 66% of girls regularly trade sex for food & glue sniffing is common practice. A study by Oxfam deduced that 37% of children in Kibera were excluded from the education system, only 30% of the remaining children received free formal primary school education & the remaining 70% only had access to a limited education at community centers. A lack of clean water & poor sanitation & hygiene practices lead to dysentery & diarrhea, particularly from pit latrine usage, which are poorly maintained & the ratio of people to latrine is high at 500:1. 73% of preventable illnesses in the Kibera slums are caused by poor hygiene practice. People without access to improved sanitation are 1.6 times more likely to experience diarrhoea. Our baseline studies (2016) on 672 children aged between 4 and 12 years old, showed that 48.4% kids attend school irregularly due to illness, resulting from unclean water, poor sanitation & hygiene.
Our goal at non-profit Sadili Oval Sports Academy (www.sadili.com) and partner International Inspiration is to use Tennis to promote WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) activities amongst 2100 children aged 4 – 12 years in Kibera, to improve health, school attendance & performance, within three years (April 2016 to March 2019).
Each child is provided with 1-3 hours per week of tennis coaching where life skills are embedded into sessions such as: confidence building, communication, health & relationships. Primary children are invited to receive further training in leadership, where they can assume additional responsibilities such as caring for & mentoring other children, serving as positive role models for the children to emulate & assisting with the delivery of tennis coaching sessions. Children will also attend homework clubs (minimum of one hour per week) so they have a dedicated environment to receive support from their peers & community leaders. Sadili mentors embed life skills across the sessions where each week we focus on a particular theme, including: how to wash hands, use of the toilet, bathing, brushing teeth and hair, preparing for school, unsafe habits, and survival skills. We run each week, a girl-cantered tennis and empowerment session, in coordination with our Girl Power Clubs program, in order to teach girls sexual and reproductive health and survival tools, encourage them to openly discuss and come up with solutions for problems that they face in their community. We ensure that we can provide a nourishing snack to all to improve participation and engagement of children.
The following from Kibera in Nairobi, Africa’s largest slum: Direct beneficiaries within a 3 year period (April 2016 – March 2019) are 2100 children (3-12 years old), 30 nursery and primary school teachers. Our first year, April 2016 – March 2017, we reached 672 children (181 nursery and 491 primary) in 16 schools.
Indirect beneficiaries: 2100 Parents (at least 1 per family), 38 Schools , 3400 other primary children (for every direct beneficiary, 2 children will indirectly benefit). 6 Youth coaches, 2 Mentoring trainers, 1 Project Coordinator, 1 Monitoring and evaluation officer, 30 Teachers
Impact In The First Year (April 2016 – March 2017)
When comparing baseline results and end line results between April 2016 and March 2017 amongst 672 children (181 nursery and 491 primary):
· 48.2% (176) of out-of-school children returned to nursery school.
· 48.8% (480) of out-of-school children returned to primary school.
· 50.41% (91) more nursery children (52 boys and 39 girls) showed improvement in test scores in Maths and English
· 50.03% (246) more primary children (136 boys and 110 girls) improved in test scores in Maths and English
· 62.5% (418) children progressed to the next class in primary school.
· Majority of parents and teachers openly admitted that the children were more alert in class. They also reported improved ability to listen and follow instructions.
· 71.1% (478) more children use sanitary facilities where there is a no-cost provision, with 63.3% (426) more children knowing how to correctly wash their hands.
· Parents and teachers confirmed that they observed that their children had improved their understanding from the practical behaviour and actions in hand washing and use of toilets.
· More parents showed support by paying of school fees, buying of uniform, books and other scholastic materials.
· More parents sit down with children to help in schoolwork.
For video on the project, please go to: http://www.sadili.com/assets/ocv.mp4
Acknowledgements: Project Partner: International Inspiration. Funding Partner: Comic Relief.
Africa hopes to arrive on the world stage with growing numbers of tennis players around the continent. These are exciting moments, only just a few years ago, a Kenya-trained player from a small but unique sports centre (Sadili Oval, next to Kibera), Burundi-born Hassan Ndayashimiye, made it to the world stage, coming through the qualifiers and reaching the second round at Wimbledon Juniors. Hassan has since joined college in the USA, after a successful stint at the ITF Centre in Pretoria. Sadili Oval also completed 2011 with Henry Ayesiga (a beneficiary from the slums of Kampala Uganda) earning second place in Africa in the Boys Under 14, nurturing him to through the next two years, finally saying a fond goodbye when he became a student at Cerritos College, USA. They are not the first product of our academy, we accept poor children from around Africa, and provide them with education and tennis training, with 7 playing college tennis on scholarship in the USA, 14 are top in the region and 9 have scholarships awarded to them in UK high schools. Amongst them are:
As you can see, from the examples described, although they had great talent, and used it to open doors to future outside professional sport.
The Effort Is Great – Is The Reward Requisite?
On average, most junior will have sacrificed about 7 years of their lives, to get to be amongst the best in their country. In order to get noticed, they would, on average, joined the game at about 9 years, and reached their peak at 17 years. This is often because the game is learned at a relatively older age than would be seen elsewhere. You would not find a more committed, athletic and hardworking junior than what you see in Africa, yet only a very narrow band make the cut to play any grand slams, and often only at the qualification stage. I have often talked to many coaches on the top level circuits, and many do not really have clear answers, perhaps because very few have had contact with these incredible kids. What I often find, is that there is no difference between a top Under 14 junior in Africa and that in Europe or America, indeed, I have travelled with teams of kids between 12 and 15 years to tournaments in Florida and England, and they have often reached the quarters and semi-finals. So what goes wrong after 16 years?
ITF (International Tennis Federation) new rules demand players destined to the top stage, get points from within their region. As such, our talented juniors are now required to travel and play within Africa, to gain the requisite points to enable them play on the world stage, especially lucrative European Circuit, and make it to the Grand Slams.
Sadili currently has 25 promising African juniors aged between 10 and 14 years, with potential to reach next step. It is for this reason that I feel concerned and need to consider various options for them, and also hope to get feedback from those who are reading this article on what the next course would be.
You see, in order to get enough points to grow, the first thought would be to have players to play regionally. At present, there are a limited number of regional ITF qualification tournaments available in Africa. Players such as our would wish to move from the ITF/CAT Under 14s (which are many) to Under 16s (which do not exist) in order to build their game and play a more experienced and time game at the Under ITF 18s. That makes sense doesn’t it?
With the lack of a high level Under 16 tournament, African players in often find themselves flat-footed and inexperienced when they meet the confident and competition ready Europeans, who often see ITF tournaments a perfect spot to grab easy points in order to get higher rankings. This has been very costly for the continent, as many juniors finally lose their confidence and move on to other sports and just stay in the background.
There are two alternatives to the ITF tournaments that we decided to take up in order to grow our players. Firstly, we sought places outside of the continent, where our talented kids to go and train with others their age for short periods, and play as many tournaments as they could. This is extremely costly, as a result of Airfare to other continents, where there exist for ITF tournaments. In addition, players would have to officially represent their countries and selection of players would depend on the local federations, a process which is not only slow, it is fraught with nepotism and favoritism, in many countries.
Secondly, we started an African ranking tournament series, the Tennis Africa Cup, www.tennisafrica.info which allows for children to play and gain points from tournaments that were being played within the continent, beginning with Kenya. The tournaments themselves are graded to ensure that players who are advanced get to challenge themselves with the bigger tournaments, in the hope of building an elite group. This method seems more feasible, and ensures that costs are kept lower and more affordable. The system has been in existence for almost 12 years, in which a number of juniors have gained scholarships to high schools in Europe and University teams in USA. However, a lot more support is needed to keep this fire burning, which includes sponsorship of more tournaments all over the continent, more tennis brand names offering strings, racquets and other goods, assured accommodation and meals for travelling kids through volunteers, and a stronger IT capacity to build a string site. Our estimate is that it is possible to build an annual 16-week tournament series that goes through Kenya, Botswana, South Africa, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Nigeria, Benin, Seychelles and Zambia.
If we can keep these activities going, then, the end of the six years, Africa may get an opportunity to present herself to the world platform with pride.
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