By Seth Moyo
Sikhulile High School is a government-owned institution nestled in the middle of the high-density suburb of Lobengula West.
If you access the school using the main gate located along Egagwini road the first striking feature that catches the eye of every visitor are those basketball hoops at a car park filled with vehicles of different types.
This, in earnest, is not a rare phenomenon as Mawaba primary school, located close to Sukhulile also has a basketball court in the main car park.
Patently, the basketball courts appear as an afterthought, and one is led to the conclusion that the sport is not respected or appreciated in townships public schools.
For starters, a tarred surface is not conducive for basketball, as it risks hurting the basketball which is played by bouncing it on the ground.
Secondly, it is dangerous for learners to play in the car park as the rough surface can lacerate them when they fall.
Interestingly, next to the car park is the administration block. Behind the administration blocks there are classrooms.
From the car park moving a few metres past the weather station, there is the football pitch on the left. A dusty field with a set of goal posts.
On the outside its oval shaped because the outer part is used as an athletics track.
This is the sum of Sikhulile high school’s sports facilities.
Juxtaposing Sikhulile to a school such as government owned Milton High school, located in the leafy low-density suburb named, Suburbs, one can easily dictate that there is massive inequality amongst the two, at least according to sports facilities.
Milton school, according to it, boosts of 2 Soccer Pitches (can also be used for other sports), 1 Athletics Track, a Netball Court (Can convert to volleyball and Handball), 2 Tennis Courts (Can also convert to volleyball) and 5 Volleyball Courts.
Also, the school has 3 Basketball Courts (Can also convert to Volleyball), 2 Cricket Fields, 1 Darts Room, 1 Gymnasium (Not fully kitted) and 1 Squash Court.
The line which precedes this impressive list is that: “The school is blessed with a number of facilities for the various sporting activities”.
Milton was built during the rule of the white racist settler regime for white (Caucasian) students.
Hillside primary school, located in the leafy suburb of Hillside, also has multiple sporting facilities-even though they are dilapidated.
At Hillside primary, there are two football fields and a rugby field.
Much more, there are cricket nets and a tennis court.
During the apartheid era enforced by the white settler regime low density areas were reserved for Europeans.
Rhodesia was segregated along racial lines with blacks and whites lived in separate residential areas.
However, urban blacks’ locations (African areas) were temporary and grossly underdeveloped.
This also involved African schools.
Education was also segregated, and white (European) learners were offered quality education while blacks (Africans) were offered inferior education.
This extended to sports, moreover blacks were prohibited from participating sports such as cricket, rugby, hockey swimming and tennis.
Hence, even today, when these sports are discussed you hear the phrase lawa ngamasports amakhiwa (sports for white people).
“There is a stereotype that Kasi schools only concentrate on football and athletics hence selection of provincial and national teams only takes place in schools in low density suburbs. The best coaches are also given to those schools (low density suburbs schools),” one resident named Mncedisi Sibanda said.
Noteworthy is that the above is a stereotype which traces back to colonial times and is still perpetuated today.
High density suburbs concentrate mostly on football because a pitch for the sport is readily available and the game is the most popular sport.
However, most learners, who attend to schools located in high density areas, lack sports facilities in the nation’s other top two sports, cricket and rugby.
This leads to apathy among high density learners towards these sports and confirms a false prophecy that they only care about football, athletics and netball.
African schools during the colonial era were only allowed to participate in football, netball and rugby.
Sadly, this colonial policy has endured past the colonial era, affecting Western areas which were formerly African areas.
Post-independence, the majority rule government under the principle of “Growth with Equity”- government ostensibly abolished racial segregation.
In addition, the government oversaw school’s expansion, teachers training and injection of resources, so as to readdress colonial injustices which had denied African children from receiving proper education.
However, and sadly, the policies maintained the colonial policy of building schools in high density suburbs nestled west of Bulawayo, with one football pitch.
Sikhulile High school is a good example.
“The schools are forced to offer limited sports codes and even compete in limited codes. It completely shuts out talent identification and development. This means some learners will go through the system without getting a chance to develop in a sport. There are many learners who are into tennis or swimming and they go to such school where their potential dies and promising career paths are destroyed at such schools” said one Mr Rukasha while commenting on how lack of sporting facilities affect students.
Rushaka’s remarks are indeed vindicated by Sikhulile high school, which does not offer rugby, tennis, hockey, and swimming.
This disadvantages learners at these schools as they are limited to certain sporting fields.
“In an African setup especially in the high-density suburbs boys are given first priority because we have few facilities boys get first preference thus the girl child’s talent is compromised,” highlighted Blessing Mpande, a female football referee.
Lack of sporting facilities also has gender implications.
Sikhulile High school does not have a proper netball court. Netball is one of the most popular schools sport in Zimbabwe.
Despite this, Sikhulile has produced gems like netball national team captain, Felistus Kwangwa.
This is the potential that lies in so many of these schools.
This also highlights the issue of pitch congestion, because even the limited sporting codes on offer cannot fit in that one football pitch.
Further, juxtapositioning Sikhulile and Milton schools highlights the inequality and it also shows the warped model that the government used in building schools in high density suburbs such as Sikhulile, Lobengula, Amhlophe and other secondary schools.
The model to achieve equality was of the likes of Milton, a school with multiple sporting facilities to provide variety of choices for learners.
Their difference in location should not be the only argument.
Sadly, Sikhulile High school has little space to expand if there is need or support to extend their sporting facilities.
We need to really reflect and think about it as readers of this piece, you might have passed through this system, or your child will pass through it.
Or maybe you are thinking “I will send mine to a good school (good being school that ensures all children have the opportunity to explore their talents)”.
Why not make them all good?
Food for thought!