Sport and life skills have been a game-changer. Vince, the MCC and Masi Sports have enabled the school’s sports dream. The learners who are involved in sport have improved their marks, time-keeping and discipline are enhanced, and litter at the school has miraculously disappeared!
Western Cape, South Africa (17 April 2021) – A short drive into Masiphumelele, you’ll find Ukhanyo Primary School. With its single-storey entrance, it’s easy to miss among the buildings lining the main road of the South Peninsula’s biggest township. However, its humble façade belies the success story within its walls – and beyond, on its sports fields.
When headmaster Michael Tyhali arrived at the school in 2000, there was no sports field. The site had to accommodate both a high and primary school, and there was no space for extras such as a science lab or physical activity. Although the high school eventually shifted to a new home on the outskirts of Masi, adequate sports facilities remained a luxury out of its reach.
But thanks to the passion of Tyhali and his team, and the support of a network of non-governmental players, Ukhanyo now has a different story to tell.
These days, the school grounds are a frenzy of happy activity after school, with both boys and girls playing soccer on the school’s astroturf, shooting for goal on the netball court, bowling their hearts out in the cricket nets, and winding round the school quad in a chain of bright orange bicycles. Overseeing the activities is a squad of coaches, who, besides dispensing ball-handling skills or the finer points of batting, also act as mentors and life coaches.
Key to this transformation has been the work of Masi Sports, with its founding partner MCC; NGO partner Masicorp; life-skills partner Coolplay; and cycling partners CTCT, BenBike, PedalPower and Qhubeka.
Cricket legend Vince van der Bijl is the driving force behind MCC’s work at the school. Besides his successful cricket career, Van der Bijl was also a teacher, and so sports empowerment and education are in his bones. Over the past four years, he has worked closely with Ukhanyo to ensure that its children have improved access to both of these.
“Sport and life skills have been a game-changer. Vince, the MCC and Masi Sports have enabled the school’s sports dream. The learners who are involved in sport have improved their marks, time-keeping and discipline are enhanced, and litter at the school has miraculously disappeared!” says Tyhali.
“Others now see us as a school of choice, with excellence at the centre. The list of social ills in this area goes on and on, but parents tell me that children don’t want to miss sports.”
The project was launched in 2017 when the school had only one sport and physical training (PT) coach, one netball court and a short sprint track, no school kit or proper equipment and only netball teams played inter-school matches.
Now all 2000 learners at have a PT lesson once a week. There are currently 19 coaches for the school’s 19 teams, which play official school matches in school-branded kit. Netball, cricket, rugby, soccer, cycling, basketball, athletics and chess are thriving. The school has three astroturf cricket nets and two artificial fields. And of particular importance is the fact that each practice starts with a 20-minute life-skills session.
“I never thought in my time as headmaster we would host inter-schools matches at Ukhanyo,” said Tyhali. “Masi Sports is constructing a large 60x30m astroturf field with shock pads this year. We will host netball, soccer, cricket and hockey matches. Our teams will be cheered on by parents, learners, staff and the community. It’s a dream come true.”
Last year the project moved into Masiphumelele High School, where two netball courts were constructed, and netball, soccer, chess, rugby and cycling were introduced.
Ensuring continued access to quality sports and life-skills training is at the heart of the Masi Sports new 1000 x 1000 + campaign. The campaign aims to secure 1 000 R1 000 donations (and more!) in order to cover annual operating costs. The ultimate goal is to create sustainability so that generations of Masi’s children, teens and future adults will benefit from Masi Sports’ programmes.
Not only has this programme created a positive shift for the children who attend the school – the second-biggest primary school in Cape Town — but Tyhali says it’s also had an effect on the parents.
“Whenever we have a meeting with parents, they respect us and support us,” he says. ”The mindset has also changed in terms of parents supporting the kids and their teams when we go into the community. We are a no-fee school, but if we do ask for donations, we get considerable support.”
This support gives credence to the project’s long-term goal of ensuring that the benefits of the sports programme radiate beyond its walls, transforming Masi via the heart of the community, the schools. In the process, Ukhanyo has been empowered to live its motto: We Bring the Light.
“This school is a mirror of the community. It is also an essential hub within the community reaching most families in Masi,” says Tyhali. “By improving the school as we are doing, we will help bring hope and opportunity to this impoverished community.”