THE Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University's human movement science (HMS) department is spearheading a project aimed at promoting and encouraging an interest in physical education and active lifestyles for pupils at disadvantaged schools.
The department's PasSport to Health project, which was developed by lecturer Dr Cheryl Walter, is gaining momentum and is set to benefit both final-year HMS students as well as the schools the project adopts.
She said the project was initially developed to assist third-year students specialising in recreation and sports management to put their theoretical work into practice.
"What I have them do is write a proposal and obtain funding to assist a school. They then research the needs of that particular school in relation to promoting physical activity and finally they design an intervention to assist the school."
Three schools were adopted this year – St James High School in Schauderville, Nkululeko High School in KwaNobuhle and Woolhope High School in Malabar.
"For example, after researching the needs at Woolhope, we discovered that despite their huge open fields, the majority of pupils did not play any sport and most of them were not physically active, especially the girls," Walter said.
With R10000 raised from approaching various sponsors, the students bought a music centre, built an outdoor circuit and purchased various gym equipment.
"We will start a fitness club for the girls in the new year where they will do aerobics and taebo. Girls tend to enjoy the non-competitive activities more. We will also conduct workshops and get our biokinetics honours students to measure the pupils and compare their weight in relation to their height.
"Through this we will encourage the kids to be healthy and active again. Education is not complete without physical education."
Walter, a former pupil at Woolhope, said since the introduction of outcomes-based education, physical education had been phased out of disadvantaged schools and replaced with life orientation.
She said many disadvantaged schools did not prioritise physical education due to a lack of manpower and facilities.
"The World Health Organisation recommends that children should have at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Obesity is increasing and so is the risk of chronic illnesses at a younger age. Children are too interested in computer games, television and cellphones these days," Walter said.
Woolhope's sports coordinator, Dhanasagren Moodley, said the school's athletics tournaments had dwindled as most children were bused in from the townships and could not stay after school for practice sessions.
He said sport was optional and the majority of pupils did not take part.
Deputy principal Richard Jaran said the school hoped this would be the first step towards reintroducing physical education at the school.
"We have produced real sports stars in the past such as rugby player Mzwandile Stick and Haroon Lorgat who was [chief executive] at the International Cricket Council."