Values change with time and time they say changes values. The value and purpose of education in the 19th century is hugely different from what is obtainable in the contemporary era.
Sports value in the early days of education in Nigeria is obviously a different kettle of fish today.
When education was introduced in Nigeria, the foremost quest was to learn how to read and write which would automatically fetch one the white collar job, and essentially a way out of poverty.
Consequently, sports were merely seen as recreations, hence, the system inputted in the timetable break hours for the students to refresh themselves via physical education, just for the fun of it.
Many Nigerian parents would frown at their children’s involvement in sports as a career because sporting were believed to hold no future for students compared to being a doctor, lawyer, and engineer, among others.
Today, children experience a myriad of benefits from combining sports and education or visa-viz in schools.
From developing camaraderie and team building spirit to honing physical and personal skills; athletes learn to manage both winning and defeat atmospheres.
Research has proven that students who participate in sports do better in academic works, interpersonal skills and are generally healthier.
Besides, sports help adolescents develop an array of personal skills, including resilience, attitude control, time management and long term thinking abilities.
Students’ participation in sports, especially group competitions help them to learn skills that apply to opportunities both on and off the field of play. Through school competitions, children establish a solid work ethic that values practice and rewards determination as against the ‘quick success’ syndrome seen in many others who do not engage in sports.
Moreover, sporting activities can help earn a child scholarship as there are always grant opportunities for students with athletic skills and noble characters.
Unfortunately, Nigeria’s education curriculum does not in actual sense give room for sports and education to go hand-in hand.
A good example was the experience of James Aina, who as a student of the University of Lagos was denied the opportunity to achieve his goal because of a clash with his school academic calendar.
In 1994, James found himself in the middle of a big tussle between his studies and his sports passion. He was compelled to forfeit his dream of participating in the World University Games in California, USA because of his studies.
Similarly, a young man, by name Ndukauba Emenike, who was the school football team captain and the sports prefect of his school, told a story how he was made to repeat classes while in secondary school because of his involvement in sports.
“I was involved in many sports while in secondary school, and this resulted in my been away from classes. As a result, I was did not do well in my WASSCE. Of course my parents were not happy with me”, he said.
This was close the case of one the ex-super eagles player, who at his secondary school was bundled out of school to represent the country on international competitions without a provision to augment the lost lessons time.
James, now a coach believes education and sports can go together but only with a proper policy in place.
“The Nigerian education policy however does not comprehensively support sports.
The system doesn’t provide room for both education and sports to professionally go together,” he said.
In Nigeria the sports calendar and education does not accommodate each other. They are on parallel lanes; they could see and wave to each other but never meant to meet.
For instance, in secondary schools, the sports calendars are usually for leisure. Unlike advanced countries, there is no room for sports to leverage on education even at the grassroots levels.
The education curricular takes all the time leaving the athlete with no time to marry both.
In balancing sports and education without jeopardizing either, James have this to say, “Discipline is key if we want to use sports to develop our youth.”
Sports, he said are governed by rules and regulations which must be obeyed by all and sundry. In sports there is time for everything.
And when it is combined with education, a lot of care must be taken to avoid clash of interests, and one overriding the other.
“A child must be made to engage in education in order to engage in sports”, he opined.
Our educational system needs an overhauling. A system where a child will enter classroom by 8:00am and leaves by 4:00pm, is not ideal for talents developing.
Nigerian educational system lacks facilities for sports development and even the facilitators of sports need orientations on the value of sports in education and life.
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A child who is actively engaged in sports while in school should not be allowed to fail his course because he was out on sports engagement.
Besides, how can you get talents when there are no enough space for the children to play?
Though education and sports is believed to be the most powerful weapon to change the world, lack of political will to drive the process in Nigeria is the problem.