By Jonah .W. Byakutaaga
Uganda has in the past several weeks enjoyed a good run on the international sporting scene which has fostered some form of unity in the nation. The National Men’s football team the Cranes played in their second consecutive African Nations Cup in Egypt, reaching the knock out stage for the first time in over forty years. The Women’s National Netball team put up a good show at the sport’s biggest showpiece, the Netball World Cup in Liverpool, England where they finished seventh, affirming their place among the top teams. Uganda also picked up a couple of medals at the 30th World University games in Napoli, Italy while closer to home, reigning league champions KCCA FC lifted the Regional Kagame CECAFA Clubs Championship held in Kigali.
Uganda has over the years steadily improved as a sporting nation and this has been evident in the performances at international competitions, and in the increased attraction of government & corporate sponsorship for sports. This has in turn elevated sports as a gainful type of employment for youths and it is crucial that we harness sports as a channel for youth empowerment and consequently economic transformation of the country. Sports can also help in nurturing youths into future leaders by cultivating into them a sense of personal, national and social responsibility. Indeed, the teams which have done Uganda proud in different disciplines have been representing not themselves, but the aspirations of the whole country.
It is imperative that government programs aiming at youth empowerment, poverty alleviation and wealth creation tap into sports as a growing avenue for achieving the three goals. This can be done through improving on the budget allocated towards sports, putting up infrastructure to promote sports such as stadia and training grounds as well as formulating a holistic education curriculum which embraces sports, both for health and fitness, and also as a career path for those who have exceptional talent.
Sports is key in the development of young people as it provides a youth friendly environment where young people feel a sense of belonging, self-worth and personal satisfaction through participation and peer interaction.
It nurtures leadership skills especially when young people are allowed to manage and run their own sporting activities, events and competitions in schools and other environments. Sports also imparts values in young people such as equality, respect, discipline, inclusion and perseverance which are much needed as we shape the leaders of tomorrow’s Uganda.
The importance of sports in our society particularly to young people cannot therefore be over emphasized. It is imperative that policy makers, education managers, sports administrators, parents and society as a whole recognize the important role sports can play in building and developing the minds, bodies, and futures of our young people.
The Ministry of Education and Sports should remain steadfast in its mission to guide, coordinate and promote quality physical education, training, and sports to all persons in Uganda for national integration, development and individual advancement.
Sports has proven to be a vehicle that can drive transformation by empowering young women and men and helping them to work together to drive social innovation and change, participate fully in the development of their societies, eradicate poverty and inequality, and foster a culture of peace and stability.
An aspiring Denis Onyango, Peace Proscovia, Jean Sseninde or Stephen Kiprotich deep in Amolatar, Hoima or Ntungamo does not need to rely anymore on formal employment, but can now instead build on their God given talent to earn a more than satisfactory living. The onus is on the government now to continue promoting sports & musical art as a massive tool in socio-economic transformation of youth in Uganda.
The writer is a sports journalist, HR practitioner and youth leader