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1 July 2019
International And Local Students Encourage Sport In SA Schools

Helping learners live healthy lives: International and local students join forces to encourage sport in SA schools

A growing number of studies are showing that the lack of sports and exercise activities offered at South African schools have dire consequences for learners’ health.

Now students from UWC, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and three European institutions are trying to remedy that situation.

Thanks to funding secured through the European Commission, the local and international students gathered in Cape Town in February for an inventive and fun pilot project in which they encourage more physical activity. Working closely with Play Sport4Life (PS4L), a Cape Town NGO, the students ran the project at Harold Cressy High School in Cape Town. The project took the form of activity-based games that also taught the kids about health-related issues.

The initiative is the latest of a series of UWC engagements with Erasmus Mundus, this time through the Erasmus+ programme. Erasmus+ is a funding scheme to support activities in the fields of education, training, youth and sport.

More specifically, UWC joins three European institutions (Avans University of Applied Sciences in The Netherlands, the Karel de Grote University College in Belgium, and the Lahti University of Applied Sciences in Finland) and two other South African universities (CPUT and the University of Cape Town) in a partnership known as the Caring Society 3.0 (CASO) consortium, funded through Erasmus+. CASO is made up of three initiatives or “pillars”: the Patient Partner Programme; the Health and Lifestyle Programme; and the Care for the Caregiver Programme.

UWC works alongside CPUT and its Western Cape College of Nursing, as well as the three European institutions on the Health and Lifestyle Programme. Ultimately, the programme seeks to educate professionals to promote a physically active lifestyle among young people, starting at school.

“Our aim is to train our students to go out and educate learners from high schools in healthy lifestyles and physical activity,” explains Dr Marié Young, head of UWC’s Department of Sport, Recreation and Exercise Science.

The students taking part represent a rich spectrum of disciplines – from social work and nursing to sports science and physiotherapy.

Since the inception of the CASO programme in 2016, staff from Europe and South Africa have developed a health and lifestyle learning module – meeting the requirements of the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) – to incorporate into the curricula of their respective institutions.

The first part of the module was an online training course. For the second part, 26 students from the European universities joined four UWC and four CPUT students for two weeks in Cape Town. Over the first week, they developed a project to pilot at South African schools.

“The project was based very much on the South African context, and trying to understand how the project would work in a South African school,” explains Dr Young.

The visits to Harold Cressy are not just a once-off. Students will continue to refine the project, and expand it to other schools in a second pilot.

There are also hopes that it can be developed into a short course that could be offered to life-orientation teachers, who typically are responsible for exercise activities at schools, explains Dr Young.

UWC’s involvement in the project is yet another achievement in the university’s collaboration with Erasmus Mundus, explains Umesh Bawa, director of International Relations.

For more than a decade, UWC has been one of the foremost South African institutions to partner equitably with the programme and, in relationship of reciprocity with European universities, says Bawa.

”UWC’s proud history of engaging the community to enhance the quality of life among the vulnerable and marginalized is given expression by this North-South partnership that brings both scholarship and a vision for a healthy future to the young,” he notes.

“This is a goal that, in this centenary celebration of the life of Nelson Mandela, offers both hope and humanity - not just in South Africa, but all around the globe.”