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Opinions of Monday, 26 March 2012

Columnist: Amoah, Anthony Kwaku

School Extra-Curricular Activities Need Special Attention

By Anthony Kwaku Amoah

Sports and leisure activities are an important component of schooling. They serve as 'breathers' in the hectic school schedule that today's kids are burdened with-Manali Oak.

The other day I got highly motivated when I listened to David Trounce’s testimony. He said, “When I was a kid, I used to remain busy all day either in my studies or in doing something interesting. I was good in every activity except sports. I loved to participate in dance and drama events. In my childhood, I had the problem of Asthma; but it gradually disappeared as I stated participating in different extracurricular activities.”

I believe my reader also remembers the saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Occasionally, the school child needs some respite from heavy academic tasks to be able to have some fun.

Quality education goes beyond just equipping pupils with academic knowledge. It must also involve psychomotor and affective learning. Acquisition of appropriate skills, values, talents, behaviour and competencies is also important. Involving children in varied, well structured and coordinated extra-curricular activities, such as games and sports, can promote versatility and productivity of beneficiary pupils.

There is the need for extracurricular activities to be made an integral component of school curriculum. Activities like drumming and dancing, poetry recitals, soccer, volley ball, table tennis and basket ball games, athletics and other field events must have place within our school curriculum.

I remember how a couple of years ago, school time tables were drawn with Physical Education (PE) as a feature. Now, it appears our new system has sidelined these activities. They have been pushed to the periphery of the modern school’s calendar.

Research findings have it that entertainment, sports and games can promote the much-needed team spirit among students. David Trounce is on record to have said, “Group skills like leadership and belongingness develop through such activities”. Some experts also believe these activities can help inculcate in the child the spirit of sportsmanship. It also provides the platform for bringing children of diverse cultural backgrounds together. Ollie Cooperwood argues that the child could learn values like discipline, responsibility, self confidence, sacrifice, and accountability through extra-curricular programmes. Effective time management can be learned through participation in extra-curricular activities. For instance, sports and games (eg. athletics) involve effective use of time to accomplish the ultimate goal of being declared victorious. Failure to effectively operate within the billed time means so much; either a person/team is declared winner or vanquish or records a draw with another. For the child to develop more responsiveness to time and be accountable for any tasks in life, the love for sports and games, for instance, is necessary.

Teachers and sports instructors must whip up the interest of children in this sector of the school system. It is a fact that not all pupils can take part in these activities. Those who cannot have the opportunity to get to the field to participate could be made part of a cheering team.

To be able to organize effective activities, there is a need for the involvement of all stakeholders. The Physical Education Department of the Ghana Education Service (GES) must be more proactive. Others like the National Commission on Culture, Ghana Libraries Board and NGOs must also collaborate with GES in order to run these activities.

Ghana should be able to move from the stage where officials appear at opening ceremonies of some of these events just to read long, cosmetic scripts which are often forgotten few days after such programmes. Measures must be taken to support talented individuals to move up.

For the school to be motivated to effectively organise extracurricular activities, special attention to Abraham Steiner’s queries could be useful: “What should happen next after the inter-schools? How many school athletes are recruited to join regional (in our case, national) teams?” I would want to make some appeals here and now. Physical Education programmes must be reviewed to enable the so-called intellectually gifted pupils, who usually shun this aspect of learning, to also love it. Physical Education course could be made an examinable one to compel pupils of all backgrounds to be serious.

Schools need requisite kits and materials to organise these activities effectively. Teachers should be interested in directing their knowledge and expertise into the teaching of extracurricular disciplines. The situation where some teachers ask pupils to jog round a school park for a number of times as a form of punishment should be discouraged.

Every pupil irrespective of gender, culture and physical conditions should be encouraged to take active part in such activities. The saying that, “Disability is not inability” must be taken critical notice of. Whether disabled or not, the child must be supported to perform in all school disciplines. Then, we can conveniently say the education churned out is holistic. Without this, I am afraid; Ghana will find it extremely difficult to wipe out poverty, starvation, disease and other socio-economic mishaps from its teaming populace.