School sport exists in most African education systems and has many challenges, often similar across the continent.

“Sport empowers man. It helps fight against school dropout and trains our children for the trials of life” Andry Rajoelina, President of the Republic of Madagascar, named champion for the promotion of sports education in Africa in 2019.

School sport has a role to play in sport and development (S&D) as well as physical education (PE). Indeed, as structured learning that takes place beyond the curriculum, school sport has the potential to develop and broaden the foundational learning that takes place in PE (afPE, 2015). It also helps to democratise sport practice.

Physical education and school sport in Africa: A state of play

Most African countries promote PE as part of the school curricula. Likewise, most schools encourage physical and recreational activities (ICESSD, 2014). Nevertheless, there are significant disparities among countries. Until recently, some states had stopped including PE and school sport in their official curricula. South Africa, one of the S&D leaders on the continent, only reintroduced PE in schools in 2012. School sport programmes have become an optional activity at most of the economically disadvantaged schools, due to a lack of resources and infrastructure. To this end, to ensure that all individuals can access sport, regardless of economic background, Kenya has made PE compulsory in formal education at all levels of study. A close relationship exists between sport organisations and educational institutions, since it is best to integrate PE and school sport within the syllabus. In French-speaking African countries, school and university sport is an integral part of the sports model inherited from the colonial era (Bouchet, Kaach, 2004). The current trend is to update the programmes, to fit more in line with contemporary approaches to sport; thus, Senegal recently launched a reform of school and university sport in view of the 2022 Dakar Youth Olympic Games, postponed to 2026.

School and university sport in Africa: Challenges

School and university sport aim to develop the youth for sustainable economic development. They also aim to make sports participation more widespread in order to enhance the economic value of national sport, since school sport can be an important venue for talent scouting. School sport also has the potential to play a role in sport diplomacy. However, this requires revising governance modes, defining specific sport and education policies and reducing inequalities in access to sport practice, among others. For example, in 2014, the Kenyan Secondary School Sports Association devised a three-year strategy and plan to empower the teachers on the coaching, talent scouting, management, development and officiating of many sports. In South Africa, the differences in sport opportunities at different schools are a cause for concern for both the government authorities and the sports sector. They agree on the need to revitalise school sport so that all young people can enjoy the social and health benefits of sport.

School sport in Africa: The future

The reevaluation of school and university sport seems to be desired in multiple African countries. In 2019, in the wake of the 2nd African Forum of School Sport, African states adopted a comprehensive strategy for school sport. In early 2020, Morocco acceded to the vice-presidency of the International School Sport Federation (ISF) through Youssef Belqasmi, Secretary General of the Department of National Education. In addition, in 2021, Benin will host a pilot project for an African school soccer championship, initiated by FIFA. Following a virtual meeting that took place on 30 October 2020 between FIFA top brass and several sports ministers, the Nigerian Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, highlighted FIFA’s desire “to deepen youth involvement in football, coaching and refereeing in grassroots and secondary schools”. School sports should, therefore, take an active part in the development of Africa through sport.

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