There is plenty of sporting talent on farms and in the rural areas of South Africa, and the Transnet Foundation is determined to find it and develop it. Much of this talent is hidden in underdeveloped communities, while most sporting infrastructure is centred in developed, urban areas.
Through its Rural and Farm School Sport Development Programme, the foundation is giving both boys and girls outside the traditional sporting target areas their chance to shine. It aims to uncover, develop and nurture young athletes.
The rural section of the sport portfolio has come a long way since it began in the early 2000s in QwaQwa, Free State.
Since those days, the foundation has been distributing apparel and equipment in athletics, football, netball – and for good measure, chessboards – to schools around the country. This year they identified 194 schools in far-flung areas for these desperately needed items.
And last year the foundation hosted regional and national tournaments for the best athletes aged from 13 to 19 in a Sports Development League they are running in five provinces – Mpumalanga, the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and North West.
The top athletes go to a sports camp where they are trained by professional coaches. Last year 25 lucky grade 8 learners were admitted to the SAFA/Transnet Football School of Excellence. The focus of the school is on developing world-class football players for the country – a task it is fulfilling. The School of Excellence has produced players for all the country’s top Premier Soccer League teams.
This year the foundation has extended the Rural and Farm School Sport Development Programme to all nine provinces, conducting trials in football and academics.
They will also stage their holiday study camps for all grades. The study camps rolled out for learners in grades 10 and 12 last year were very effective. The pass rate was 96% among the 25 learners in the programme who wrote matric, and 29% achieved bachelor passes.