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Education key for development–UN officer

The Importance of Sport, Development and Peace and the Sustainable Development Goals - and why Education is Key to Success

South Africa’s success rests on how the country deals with education and science, warned Honourable Professor Wilfried Lemke, the United Nations Special Advisor on Sport for Development and Peace, in a lecture on The Importance of Sport, Development and Peace, and the Sustainable Development Goals at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) on 28 September 2016.

“Without question, South Africa has made huge strides with regards to development in the last 20 years,” he said. “But still there is a lack of engagement of the government - and many governments around the world, not only South Africa - when it comes to education.”

“Like students say we don’t want to pay any fees for education, and the government says there is lack of money here and there. They must understand it is very important to do more for education for the people of this country.”

Prof Lemke, who was bestowed with an honorary professorship by UWC early this year, and who visited UWC to teach on ICESSD’s Postgraduate Diploma for Sport and Development,   m entioned South Korea as a case in point – as it was one of the poorest countries in the world 70 years ago, and it is now one of the most successful developed economies in the world, due to its strategic focus on and heavy investment in education.

“The government of South Korea said from the beginning, ‘We have to teach our children in the best way - and we have to spend a lot of money’; and the result is what you see over the last 70 years. It’s unbelievable that you can come from the bottom of the list of member states of the United Nations to the top ten. South Korea is not a huge country, but it is a very busy and ambitious one. We all have to learn that it is important to do more for education.”

Sport for Education: healthy bodies, minds and role models

Prof Lemke also explained that sport is part of a holistic education - for children (and adults) sport is pleasure, and sport is fun. It promotes friendships, and sport teaches you important life skills. And sport is not just for the elite, but for everyone - regardless of ethnic background, colour, creed, race or physical abilities.

“You don’t have to talk about it, you just have to do it. We know the importance of elite sports producing role models around the world,” he said, “but I prefer role models like you, working in a community or in a university, to be role models for the youth, for your own children and for your grandchildren.”

He noted that the UN uses sport as an innovative tool in advancing its goals, mission and values.

“Sport is an important enabler of the Sustainable Development Goals, and we recognise the growing contribution of sport to the realisation of development and peace in its promotion of tolerance and respect, and the contribution it makes to the empowerment of communities, as well as health, education and social inclusion objectives.”

“This is a tool to promote education, health, development and to build a peaceful and a better world,” he concluded. “Let us use it wisely.”

UWC’s Director of Institutional Advancement, Patricia Lawrence, thanked Prof Lemke for availing himself to deliver the lecture, and applauded him for his sterling work in countries around the world.

“The role of sport in development and peace is recognised throughout the world,” she said, “and in South Africa we have vivid memories of the role sport played both as a tool to mobilise for the liberation of our country, and as a catalyst for reconciliation and peaceful co-existence.”