In a frantic move to return to the glory days of sports in the country, the federal government has revealed that they are targeting two million children in schools across the country to be introduced to various sports in the next two years.
President Goodluck Jonathan disclosed this Thurday while launching a new policy called, Rhythm ‘n’ Play, at the Velodrome of the National Stadium, Abuja.
The programme is a campaign aimed at boosting massive youth participation in sports activities and age grade competitions.
According to Jonathan, having realised that sports is an important vehicle for fostering national cohesion and also a major tool for mobilisation of youths for national development, his government had decided to remain firmly committed to the development of young people.
He said his administration was irrevocably committed to grassroots sports development.
He called for collaboration from the private sector, state and local governments in order to make the dream a reality.
“‘Rhythm N’ Play, the programme that we are launching today, is aimed at providing young Nigerians under the age of 17 years, with structured programmes that combine sports and play as critical learning and development tools.
“As the biggest campaign for youth participation in sports ever launched in our country, this initiative will revolutionise grassroots sports in our dear nation. Our target is to introduce two million additional children to sports over the next two years.
“In this regard, I have directed the National Sports Commission and the Federal Ministry of Education, to work in concert towards achieving this target.”
Jonathan said his administration had concluded plans to bring back physical education to schools and make participation in sporting activities compulsory for all students.
“Through this targeted effort, our administration intends to bring physical education back to our schools, and make participation in sports activities compulsory for all pupils and students,”.
“Already, 2013 is turning out to be a success for the country in Sports. In February, our gallant Super Eagles won the African Cup of Nations (AFCON). Two weeks ago, I hosted a joint Reception for the Golden Eaglets who represented the country at the African Under 17 Football Championship in Morocco as well as our Athletics Team which emerged overall winners of the maiden Under 18 African Athletics Championship in Warri.
“They were honoured for their extra-ordinary feat and display of talent in their chosen sports at the international arena. So far, we are doing well in our effort to fly the Green-White-Green in the Football World Cup tournament in Brazil next year. This is a great moment for sports in Nigeria.
” We must build on this momentum and trend. We must take every step to ensure that our successes are sustained. We believe that grassroots sports development and nurturing provide the way.”
Jonathan said he was aware of the fundamental constraints facing this initiative, such as inadequate sporting facilities and qualified coaches in many schools.
He however said he was determined to reverse the situation.
“We will overcome existing constraints by articulating cost efficient solutions to empower children and facilitate greater interest and participation in sports,” he said.
The President reiterated the need for all Nigerians to join hands with his administration to build a new Nigeria.
Speaking earlier, Minister of Sports, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, said one of the conclusions of the presidential retreat hosted by Jonathan earlier in the year is to create opportunity for children to participate in sports.
He said the programme that was launched would rely heavily on music to mobilise children to take up one sport or the other.
He said his ministry would leverage on existing competitions to nurture Nigeria’s future champions.
“Our target is to mobilise two million additional children in two years across the country through 12 zonal offices,” he said.
he minister said school games masters would also be trained for the programme while sporting equipments would be delivered directly to schools across the country.
He said the ministry did not need to break a bank before it delivers on the programme’s mandates since most of the facilities to be used would be improvised.
Chairman, Nigeria Academicals Sports Committee, Mr. Yemi Idowu, commended the President for initiating the project.
He said it made sense to increase the chances of discovering children that can take part in sports.
Idowu sought the support of the private sector for the programme, saying government alone cannot fund the programme adequately.
uring the event, Jonathan was presented with his kit as the Grand Patron of the Rhythm ‘n’ Play Campaign.
The President later in turn presented sports kits to 10 participating schools and decorated the Rhythm ‘n’ Play ambassadors that included musicians as well as actors and actresses.
The ambassadors are Nollywood veterans, Emeka Ike and Osita Iheme as well as singers, Ice Prince and MI. Super Eagles star, Victor Moses is also among the ambassadors.
The ten participating schools are Governmrnt Girls’ Secondary School, Dutse; Federal Boys College, Garki; Cheryfield College, Jikwoyi; Model Secondary School, Maitama; Baptist High School, Abuja; Pace Setter College, Uyo; Command Day Secondary School, Maitama; Government Secondary Scool, Kwali; Arahman International School, Asokoro; and Glinstein International School, Jabi.