Tanzania in the past has been involved in various sports and the performance used to be very good. We remember the good times in athletics when Filbert Bayi, Juma Ikangaa, Mwinga Mwanjala and Gidemus Shahanga and many more succeeded in various international competitons. We also remember the good times in boxing with the likes of William Isangula, Salehe Simba, the Matumla family and others put Tanzania on the international sports map. This article argues the need for competitive sports to be supported at school level in order that new talent can emerge and that Tanzania can again succeed in the sports arena.
Firstly, Interprimary School games in Tanzania (UMITASHUMTA) need to be re-introduced. In the past pupils competed at the inter-class and inter-school level from ward to district, regional and then to national level in ballgames, athletics etc. This provided a means of encouraging a spirit of motivation and competition and led pupils to push themselves to obtain greater performance. For students UMITASHUMTA was like the Olympics. It also allowed them the opportunity to visit other schools in other areas and widen their knowledge of their country.
I feel that the ability of Tanzania at the national level to compete regionally within Africa and even internationally is seriously affected by the absence of UMITASHUMTA competition at the primary school level as there is no strong base from which young sports people with talent can emerge and therefore no competitions at secondary level (UMISETA). There is some competition at the higher education level but this is weakened by the lack of competitive support at the first step – the primary school level.
In 1995, President Mkapa, then Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education, came to Dodoma for the closing ceremony of the Higher Education games (SHIMIVUTA). I was present at that event and got the opportunity to make a direct case to the President on inter-primary school games. He was very supportive in principal of the need for UMITASHUMTA and he supported the Dodoma Girls Volleyball team (primary level). This ongoing support led to the team being able to compete in an International Volleyball competition [BONITE] in Moshi and the Dodoma girl’s team was a champion in the UMITASHUMTA for seven years.
However, in 1997 the Ministry of Education and Culture under the leadership of The Hon. Joseph Mungai, decided to suspend the competitions on the grounds that it was interfering with pupil’s academic study. There was also concern from parents about the conditions pupils had to travel in, as well as the type of accommodation that pupils away from home stayed in, in addition to concerns over misuse of funds that families had contributed for participation in the games. Efforts could have been made to improve these areas of concern without resorting to suspending the competitions. The Minister allowed the continuation of sports in schools but without competition – this does not make sense as it takes away the motivation for high quality sports performance.
The absence of these competitive games also has an effect on the skills development of Physical Education teachers and coaches as they are not exposed to other competitions or events. At the University of Dar es Salaam there is a physical education faculty training P.E teachers. However, there are few opportunities for them to meet different levels of trainers for exchange and for purposes of increasing challenge and performance. By having competitive games the trainers would be exposed to challenges from different coaches with different types of experience.
The concerns about UMITASHUMTA could be overcome with careful management and administration of the games. For example, there needs to be an appropriate balance between academic study and time allowed for sports and there needs to be a transparent and proper system set up for the funding of the competition.
It would also be important for the Ministry of Education and Culture to work closer with the Ministry of Sports in the organisation of competitive games and perhaps for one body to be set up which would bring together all of the associations so as to co-ordinate information and activities. The Ministry of Sport could provide assistance to the establishment perhaps of one office which would house all amateur associations, thereby saving on overhead costs and making it easier for them to be contacted. It is not appropriate to criticise national sports associations for bad performance as proper investment and management of it needs to be supported by the government. When there were UMITASHUMTA games most of the referee courses and clinics were taking place during the tournament as everyone was brought together in same venue and this was saving costs and time. By doing that the sports calendar ran properly but more recently most of the associations are not reaching their objectives because they can not afford to run courses in the different areas of the country.
An East African sports tournament was held last year in Uganda and this year in Tanzania at the secondary school level, which Tanzania unfortunately did not participate in because of the absence of competition within the country. This opens up the question on what the future of sport is in Tanzania. It seems long overdue for the country to consider the reintroduction of competitive sports in the country so that Tanzanians can have a chance to prove themselves in the sporting world.
Some international sports people have had limited educational background or came from deprived backgrounds. This is not talked about as sports performance is the key thing. Through getting opportunities to develop their sports potential competitively, they emerged on the world scene eventually, and in the process increased their countries economy and the sports industry. It is these types of icons that we need in Tanzania. Most of the main players coming from Africa are from West Africa and Southern Africa. Given the size of Tanzania and its peaceful political situation it should be possible for Tanzania players to emerge on the European football scene. Without UMITASHUMTA this is unlikely.