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POLICY BRIEF NO. 2 of 2021
Talent Scouting & Development in Zimbabwe’s Rural Communities
PARLIAMENT OF ZIMBABWE
(NB: The views expressed in this policy brief are solely those of the author)
Most of the sport gurus in Zimbabwe emanates from Group A and Trust Schools, not only because sport-talented people enrol with these schools, but because the schools are already established with state-of-the-art sporting facilities. This then enables them to scout, groom and develop sport-talented youths and also expose them for trials in either the local or international sports clubs. However, there are more unidentified redundant talented youths in the rural areas who cannot afford Group A and Trust Schools and face difficulties in getting sponsors. Due to a number of national socio-economic benefits associated with sporting, this policy brief recommends the Government to invest in a well-defined and coordinated funded Talent Scouting, Identification and Development (TID) program in rural communities which can be supported through a Basic Sports Acquisition Module (BASAM).
Over the years, the sporting performance in Zimbabwe has been so discouraging as the Zimbabwe National Team (The Warriors) never qualified for the FIFA World Cup, despite having been qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) several times in 2004, 2006, 2017 and recently in 2019. It is disheartening to note that Zimbabwe is endowed with a mass of redundant and unidentified sport-talented young people living in marginalised poor rural areas as well as high density suburbs popularly referred to as ghettos. According to UNICEF 2020 report, the children (under the age of 18) constitute approximately 48% of the Zimbabwean population, of which about 72% of them live in the neglected rural areas. Most of these idle talented young people in rural areas remain unidentified to participate in national sporting activities due to a number of reasons. These include; lack of proper sporting facilities, dedicated coaches in each particular sport and lack of properly defined talent identification and development program (Musukume, 2012).
While the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has already existing talent scouting structures in schools which is commendable, they have their own flaws. All schools participate in the zonal competitions, where the winning school is expected to scout talented participants from other schools to form one strong team to participate in the district competitions. The same procedure is repeated from the district, provincial up to the national level. It is at national level where the best participants/ players are handpicked for trials at various Sports Clubs thereby leaving the majority out in the rural communities.
In as much as Zimbabwe has some existing talent scouting structures, it lacks the full implementation. At zonal level, the winning school may deliberately not scout talents from other losing school, implying that some talents will remain unidentified at zonal level. In some instances, a strong team of talented individuals can be formed at zonal level, but fail to participate at district level due to lack of funding. The same problems may persist for some schools and individuals at district, provincial and national level, supressing the rural talented folks. On the other hand, talented young people from Group A and Trust Schools are immune to these challenges faced by the rural people as they have proper funding, coaching, mentorship and grooming. Since 72% of children live in rural areas and cannot afford these Group A and Trust Schools, it implies that the country has more unidentified talented youths in rural areas.
3. Legislative and Policy Framework
Zimbabwe has a robust legislative and policy framework as far as sporting is concerned. However, what lacks is the sound implementation strategies. Section 32 of the Zimbabwe Constitution states that:
“The State must take all practical measures to encourage sporting and recreational activities, including the provision of sporting and recreational facilities for all people.”
It is in tandem with this section of the constitution that the Ministry of Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation is tasked with promoting sport, arts and recreation activities by ensuring equitable participation, sustainable development and empowerment of all Zimbabwean citizens. The Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) facilitate the accessibility of sport and recreation programmes to the people of Zimbabwe and oversee the general running of sport and recreation programmes by the National Sporting Associations. It derives its mandate from the Sports and Recreation Commission Act and reports to the Ministry responsible for sport.
The Sport and Recreation Commission (SRC) has been successful in supporting its sports affiliates such as the Zimbabwe Rugby Union, Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) and Amateur Athletics Association of Zimbabwe (AAAZ), which all have their feeder cords traced from the grassroots especially in primary schools where potential sport talent is identified and nurtured through various sporting activities. The National Association for Primary Heads (NAPH) and the National Association for Secondary Heads (NASH) are tasked to oversee and promote the running and management of sports in primary and secondary schools respectively, but, the benefits from these associations have not yielded tangible results in rural areas as far as talent scouting is concerned. The failure is attributable to lack of funding and the lack of clear national strategic plan in as far as the link between the schools and Sports Clubs is concerned.
4. State of Sporting in Rural Schools
Most rural schools are deprived of the access to other sporting activities such as Rugby, Tennis, Chess, Basket Ball and Hockey, which have naturally become the sporting activities for the rich urban minority. The common sports accessible to the majority of rural schools are; Soccer, Netball and Athletics. This poses a question: Does this mean that we have no rural young people talented in these so-called urban sporting activities? It is clear that they exist, but their talents are left unidentified due to lack of sporting facilities, funding as well as national talent scouting strategy. According to Masukume (2012), other factors which led to the accumulation of redundant unidentified sport talents in rural areas are mostly the lack of finance and the human resources. This means that the country is losing out a lot of benefits from the 72% of all the children in Zimbabwe who are marginalised in rural areas.
Rural schools’ sport budgets are close to non-existent since they rely more on unpredictable school fees collections leaving most rural schools unable to settle sport affiliation fees. The school fees receipts are unpredictable and uncertain because most parents in rural areas cannot afford and do not prioritise education for their children due to poverty. This is also exacerbated by limited budgets such that most school’s management end up prioritising academic budgets and leaving out sports activities with little or no funding at all. Masukume (2012) noted that parents and teachers in rural schools’ regard sport as a subject for the less academically-gifted children who must be consigned to a football pitch or an athletics track. This proves that rural people do not appreciate the value of sports including the economic value that a sporting career can bring.
The lack of sporting facilities in rural areas have led some school children to foot more than 10km in order to access athletics venues, attend tournaments and without other supporting ancillaries such as sport kits, among others. As such, in order to get rid of these challenges for the rural folks, the Government may need to reconsider equipping Physical Education Teachers as talent identification scouts as well to monitor all the sporting activities all over the country. This will promote coaching, grooming and mentorship and recommendations to higher Sport Academies. The success of these young people in this programme will depend on the availability of a well-structured sporting facilities in rural areas, complimented by well-funded Sport Academies to polish up the identified talents for national, regional and international assignments.
5. Lessons from Other Countries
In an effort to achieve national and international sporting success, many countries have adopted and heavily invested a considerable amount of resources in systematic Talent Identification and Development (TID) programs. A good example of a success story is the Korea Foundation for the Next Generation Sports Talent, which was established in 2007, and has managed to develop sport talents for international sporting excellence and help in bringing foreign currency, among other benefits.
In the African context, top countries in football such as Senegal and Egypt have done a lot in talent identification and scouting. The Senegal talent scouting system is largely based on the work of football schools and academies that travel to different places, looking for the most promising talents. The scouted talented children have their studies paid for (get scholarships) and often use this opportunity as a stepping stone towards a sporting career abroad. In Egypt, the National Project for Talent Identification in Football is under the purview of the Ministry of Youth and Sports which carries out local talent trials with the Stars of Egypt such as Mohamed Salah. To ensure ease of scouting in Egypt, one should join a professional training session to allow multiple professional scouts to assess skills, speed, agility, stability and conditioning. After weeks of trial, youths who participated receive an official email with the Stars of Egypt on the decision and recommendations for improving football technical ability, strength and conditioning, speed and agility, core stability and nutrition, and successful candidates then join some certified clubs in the country.
There is no one correct model for talent identification and selection as it depends on the culture of the nation, complexity of the sport and the infrastructure of the sports at a local, state and national level. Zimbabwe may copy and adapt what is being done by other successful countries as far as talent scouting is concerned so as to derive socio-economic benefits of sports.
The current talent scouting, identification, and development in Zimbabwe mainly focuses on children from rich families who can afford Group A and Trust Schools, leaving out the potential and talented underprivileged and marginalised rural youths. To achieve the National Vision 2030 of attaining an upper middle-income economy by 2030, and in tandem with the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) theme of leaving no one behind, sporting should play an important role by developing an effective and efficient talent identification, scouting and development.
7. Policy Recommendations (Options)
7.1 The Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Primary and Secondary Education and that of Youth, Sports, Arts and Culture should:
7.1.1 Lobby for the introduction of a Basic Sports Acquisition Module (BASAM) in schools to promote sports in rural schools like its equivalent BEAM, that helps children with levies, tuition and exam fees. BASAM will fund for sport facilities, sport kits, coaches, and introduction of other sports in rural communities.
7.1.2 Call on the Government for the development of a well-coordinated Yearly Sport Calendar with links created between schools, sport academies and sports clubs to enable talent exposure, identification and development.
7.1.3 Call on Government to establish Sports Academies, at district, provincial and national level to groom and mentor identified talented youths scouted from various schools.
7.1.4 Call on the Government to enter into public-private partnerships (PPPs) to promote talent identification and also consider providing incentives for corporates that promote Talent Identification and Development.
7.2 The Portfolio Committee on Local Government and Public Works should advocate for a certain percentage % of devolution funds to be dedicated towards the development of requisite sporting infrastructure in rural communities.
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 Grounds, swimming pools, human resources and other resources.
 United States, United Kingdom, Australia, South Korea, Japan, China, and recently Singapore
 Improves national image on the international stage; employment creation; improvement in community health and productivity, cut in medical expenses and enhances social cohesion; and that it gives a sense of well-being, which is also a very important factor when trying to improve happiness in a country.