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Shining the spotlight on deserving South African sports talent


The prestigious Transnet Rural and Farm Schools Tournament launch in Gauteng was a huge success amongst learners, coaches, and sports officials. But what made the evening such a humbling experience for all involved was seeing first hand the excitement on the faces of the youths. For them, “coming from a rural area, the children were so excited to be in the city. For some, this was their first time here,” said Bakamela Rai, a teacher from Mabela Intermediate School.

The prestigious Transnet Rural and Farm Schools Tournament launch in Gauteng was a huge success amongst learners, coaches, and sports officials. But what made the evening such a humbling experience for all involved was seeing first hand the excitement on the faces of the youths. For them, “coming from a rural area, the children were so excited to be in the city. For some, this was their first time here,” said Bakamela Rai, a teacher from Mabela Intermediate School.

This annual sporting event began with over 22 000 learners across South Africa only to be whittled down to a mere 2 000 entrants who were competing in this year’s three day long National Tournament.

This tournament has grown and become a rewarding opportunity for all participants. Now in its 10th year, and proudly holding its own, the event was attended by dignitaries, sport celebrities, former-Miss South Africa Bokang Montjane, and Transnet executives all in full support of South Africa’s rising sports stars at the Boksburg Stadium.

Bakamela Rai, a mathematics teacher from QwaQwa, has been involved with the Transnet Rural and Farm Schools Programme since it started, having been trained as a coach. Bakamela reports that “the children have themselves noticed an improvement in their focusing abilities, they’ve mentioned that they’re able to concentrate better and have improved reasoning capacity” – these are benefits from playing chess.

The Transnet Foundation has six portfolios – education, health, employee volunteerism, container assistance, special projects and sport. The sport portfolio receives the second largest budget, which is then split between the Transnet school of Excellence and the Transnet Rural and Farms Schools Tournament.

The programme has seen a number of its learners win sporting scholarships and selected for national sports teams and regional soccer programmes. Competitors, sports scouts and dignitaries spent the three days witnessing up-and-coming sports talent in all four disciplines.

Brian Molefe, Transnet’s Group Chief Executer Officer, cited a passage from an unknown source in his address at the opening ceremony that spoke to the occasion perfectly. “You are all champions in your own way. This doesn’t mean you have to be number one. Just do your best. Consider for a moment what we achieve from sport – the sheer fun of competing, the building of a healthy and alert mind and body, stamina, courage, perseverance, dedication, commitment, selflessness, and most importantly, the will to excel.”

To help learners and their caregivers focus on competing and enjoying their time, the Transnet Foundation provided transportation and accommodation for all the participants – 20 schools per province in all seven of our provinces – for the duration of the event.

While South Africa is rich in sporting talent, much of its potential talent sits undiscovered and needs to be identified, nurtured and developed into tomorrow’s heroes. Transnet has made an effort to turn this around by using the Tournament as a starting ground for many of these youths.

Studies have shown the positive impact of team sports on the development of young people. Overall, they do better academically, and are more likely to matriculate, get a tertiary education or learn a trade and find jobs. Children who participate in these group activities attend more school, get into less trouble and are closer to their community.

With this in mind, the Transnet Foundation felt obliged to go the extra mile and use their expertise and resources for the social benefit of all South Africans. They used money from their budget to launch this programme in 2002, specifically targeting the more rural and isolated areas, by providing these youths with opportunities and the chance to be all they can be.

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