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Excellence in Sport, Excellence in life: SAfAIDS at the YES National Games

One would not have noticed that it was a Sunday with the noise that surrounded Chinhoyi High School, as boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 14 from all ten provinces in Zimbabwe ran across the corridors to attend their first session. The halls and classrooms were fragrant with the drive to win and succeed as the children sat in their seats with great expectation of what SAfAIDS had come to teach them.

 

The National Youth Education through Sport  (YES) Games are a sporting competition where children are not only judged by their success in sport but also by their contribution to the community. These games start of district level and end at national level. The 2015 National YES Games were held in Chinhoyi from 5 to 8 December 2015; The Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) of Zimbabwe invited SAfAIDS to the National YES games to provide classes on Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health, Essential Life Skills and Avoiding Sex Alcohol and Drugs (Don’t do SAD). Each morning SAfAIDS was given one hour with two provinces to engage these young athletes on these topics under the sub-categories of: puberty, setting your short –term and long term goals, the impact of SAD on one’s life.  The children responded with great enthusiasm with some even requesting to find out how they could also become peer educators on these issues. Each session ended with each child writing a letter to themselves on their short and long term goals.  During the letter writing there was a sudden silence that befell the class as they wrote a letter to their future selves.

 

Body Mapping and discussing short term goals

Drug use has become rampant amongst the children of today, and much to SAfAIDS’ surprise, many children admitted that they actually admired drug users as many of them have money and can get girlfriends. To further engage these children SAfAIDS ambassadors shared their testimonies with drugs and how they had lost family members, and friends to drugs. Testimonies were an effective way to engage the children because that is when they realised the context and seriousness of the morning sessions.

 

 

SAfAIDS ambassador writing the children’s rules on the board and the athletes writin the letters to themselves on their long term and short term goals

 

 

SAfAIDS also engaged coaches, drum majorettes and other older sports persons who were interested in the SRHR issues articulated in the materials. One of the coaches stated “how can SAfAIDS come to my district to educate the children in my community?”  This evinces hat there are many societal issues that nee to be addressed. Some of the key issues that arose were the extra attention that young athletes receive and how to manage themselves. When asked whether they received more attention from the opposite sex as a result of sport quite a number of children responded with an emphatic “YES!” to show that it was something that they had grappled with. In some of the provinces young people stated that they had “blood covenants” with their girlfriends to prove their commitment. These blood covenants involve the two children cutting themselves and mixing their blood. When asked if they were tested for HIV, they responded  that they were tested for HIV right before the ritual.

 

One of the main issues that stood out is that children wished they could have more to do in their communities. One child stated that “when I meet with my girlfriend of course we must touch each others private parts – it’s boring to meet and do nothing”. Other children asked for more recreation centres to be created in their communities so they would have more to do, especially for their peers that were not involved in sport.

 

The athletes perform their different skits on the lifeskills learnt and SAfAIDS Quiz

 

Amongst the hubbub of SRH quizzes and life skills guidance, SAfAIDS was able to witness the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education state that “We have left the era where we believed that AIDS kills and we are now in the era where we must do away with stigma so we can get rid of the disease.” The Minister said this in a bid to correct some of the misconceptions iterated in poems recited by children where one stated that “Wakawanikwa wavane HIV watowana rufu” (if you find out that you are HIV positive you have found death). The Minister’s immediate response to this misconception showed the state is taking its place as custodians more seriously, especially in ensuring that children have the correct information surrounding HIV.

 

 

Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Planting a Tree

 

 Enchanting processions where each province chanted their war cry for the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education were performed during the opening ceremony. The games continued with the children immediately encouraging other young people to visit the SAfAIDS exhibition in between game. The Chinhoyi High School hall atmosphere was vibrant, particularly during the one full day where each sporting team was tasked to display what they had learnt through in the YES curriculum through edutainment. The children sang, danced and used playground games to educate the audience on life skills.

 

Athletes procession during the opening ceremony  

 

Playing games with the participants to evaluate what the children had learnt

 

SAfAIDS also initiated a “Clean Up Campaign” where children, individually or in teams could collect litter in the refuse bags provided by SAfAIDS. As a reward, each person who helped to fill up the refuse bag would win a cool drink bottle. The transformation of the school grounds was immediately evident as all the grounds were no longer littered with the water bottles. This clean up campaign coincided well with the planting of trees that was initiated by the Forest Commission. The 10 provinces were also competing to see which province could plant the most trees in order combat deforestation and desertification. Such an initiative also clearly evinces the link between Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and HIV, Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) issues. Young people could not fully enjoy their environment and practice sport if it was full of litter. Even their education opportunities on HIV and SRHR were limited if the environment was filed with rotting litter.

 

 

One of the teams and their coaches after winning prizes for collecting litter

 

The continuing eclectic energy at the national YES Games clearly signified that SAfAIDS as centre of excellence had definitely met sporting excellence. SAfAIDS reached out to more than 371 children during its time at the YES Games. Through the YES National Games children are being given an opportunity to be educated holistically and shown how to be effective leaders in their communities. This SRC initiative should definitely be supported to ensure that it can grow and positively impact more children across Zimbabwe.