Sport in education and development

The role of sports in education and development

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Almost all of the various sporting disciplines are available to a greater or lesser extent in the schools of Sri Lanka. However, despite the national sports policy, there seems to be a significant disconnect between the Ministry of Education under which schools come and the Ministry of sports.

The result is again a situation where youngsters with strong sporting abilities are left to succeed (or fail) on their own with little attention being paid to either identifying their potential or developing it to international standards. As a result, very few sports people achieve even local success let alone regional or international acclaim. Sport, in Sri Lanka, is something to be dabbled in for a while and then let go as life realities kick in. Additionally, parents see very no future in sports since they are well aware that sports people live in great need after they are past their prime. A sportsperson is someone you can be but never ever become.

The chief impediments to sports in education and development in Sri Lanka
  • Disconnect between line agencies tasked with sports development
  • General perception that sports has only a recreational function with academic pursuit taking precedence over sports related careers
  • Non-integration of sports excellence and academic performance for university entrance
  • Lack of employment opportunities in post competition lives
  • Lack of knowledge of sports science and its applications among the rural majority
  • Lack of sporting infrastructure
  • Lack of strong talent identification programs with the exception of cricket
  • Lack of trained sports personnel
  • Lack of funds, patronage or other financial assistance

The issue is compounded by the fact that young athletes, especially from rural communities, know little about proper nutrition and even if they were aware of it, unable to obtain it due to poverty. Sports science is in its infancy in Sri Lanka and almost unheard of in rural schools where the bulk of the potential talent resides and whose coaches lack skill and are usually appointed in an ad-hoc manner. In many schools, sports equipment in non-existent and the lack of funds a serious problem. While these impediments to sporting excellence have existed for years, still, it is laudable that Sri Lanka has even managed to produce a few athletes of international standard in sports other than cricket. Overarching all of these is the fact that there are no sports scholarships to local universities that could be a lifeline to athletes in terms of facilities, financial assistance and post-competition employability.

The great tragedy of the situation is that in the present political-economy, it does not seem as if the problem is going to be redressed either at the policy level or at the implementation level. Both significant cooperation among line agencies and substantial funds are required to treat the problem at the national level. At present, much of the funds available seem to be channeled to cricket with the rest of the sports disciplines being given step-motherly treatment. This has seen some development occurring because of cricket, with stadia coming up in many parts of the country and area economies receiving a boost and tourism spiking slightly during international matches. However, this is but a drop in the barrel and the great potential for sports and sports related development remain untapped. In many sports too, administrative, financial and managerial irregularities have resulted in scandals that have undermined the potency of sports.

Education for a life and not for a living...