Boys and girls in Bandawe Education Zone in Nkhata Bay will have themselves to blame for not being educated as one well-wisher in the area is doing everything possible to encourage them to go to school.
This is the story of Banda Bola Sports Foundation, a non-profit non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in the US, which is using soccer to attract youngsters to school.
The foundation has established a competitive sports league for boys and girls in Standards Seven and Eight at Malengamzoma, Chifira, Bandawe and Macalpine primary schools while pupils in Standards one-six play recreational soccer.
“We have partners in the US who have donated school and sports equipment in bulk to these schools,” said founder and chief executive officer Keni Banda, a Malawian who is resident in the US.
He said the foundation recently brought in a soccer expert from Europe, RK Beeves, to conduct sports clinics for sports teachers and the pupils.
Former Flames and Mighty Wanderers captain George Manda is the Foundation’s local sports technical adviser.
Banda said the Nkhata Bay project is a pilot phase as they aim to establishing such leagues across the country. He said his foundation is aware that in many parts of the country, poverty coupled with poor infrastructure and lack of resources discourage boys and girls from going to school, and, instead go fishing, farming or simply stay at home.
He said the foundation focuses on promoting education, health and welfare using sports.
Apart from soccer equipment, the foundation also provides equipment for other small sports such as track and field events, basketball, baseball, tennis, volleyball and softball. It also provides new or used sneakers, clothes, coaches’ kits and manuals, stopwatches and uniforms for teams and officials.
It also provides teaching and learning materials.
Banda said they have set a standard passing rate in consultation with teachers in the respective schools to ensure that only those who have performed well in class should participate in the league.
“This set-up motivates the learners to perform well in class so that they can be part of the team,’ said Banda who is based in New York.
Malawi Sports Schools Association (Massa) has since hailed the project.
“The fact that they are working directly with schools is good news. Actually, their objectives are in line with what Massa wants to achieve. We will try to work with them at national level,” said Massa general secretary Blackson Malamula.
Banda said schools that perform well will be rewarded with extra medical, sports and education equipment.