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Zimbabwe schools sports facilities decay

by Staff reporter
21 Mar 2020 at 05:48hrs | Views
BEFORE the attainment of independence in 1980 and for almost 12 years into Uhuru, all sports facilities in former Group A schools were in immaculate condition. A number of sports personalities were churned out by these schools and those athletes went on to distinguish themselves locally and internationally.  

This was all possible because the facilities were standard and met all the requirements at international level.

Zimbabwe schools' sport was among the strongest in the world, particularly in cricket, rugby, tennis, hockey and swimming. Former Group A schools in Bulawayo, Gifford High, Milton High, Hamilton High and Northlea High boasted some of the best sport facilities in the land and year after year, each of them would host overseas schools in different disciplines.

Not only did they host overseas schools, but also went on tours of the United Kingdom and Australia for rugby, cricket, hockey and tennis. However, all that glory has been embarrassingly and painfully wiped out and these schools are now a pale shadow of their former selves.

Those excellent facilities have deteriorated so much that they're now an eyesore. Visits to Northlea, Gifford, Milton and Hamilton laid bare the sorry state of sports facilities. They are so bad that referring to them as sports facilities is simply deceiving ourselves.

For example, at Hamilton there is a thriving maize field where a lash green football pitch once stood. While people may blame dilapidation of sports facilities to volatility of the country's economy, one wonders how such dereliction was allowed to thrive when a school such as Prince Edward in Harare has managed to maintain high standards to date.

Prince Edward is a Government school that has retained and maintained excellent sporting facilities and still competes pound for pound with private schools such as Christian Brothers College and Falcon College in every sport.

"We had the best and biggest sports fields in Bulawayo. We had four football fields, six tennis courts, three rugby fields, best hockey field, athletics track, four basketball courts and badminton, among others, but all that is history now. One of the football fields has been turned into a maize field," said Kenneth Mhlanga, a former Hamilton learner.

At its peak, Hamilton produced athletes such as national high jump record holder Juma Phiri and the great volleyball player and coach Vulindlela Moyo.  

The school also produced former national hockey team player Nixon Chirashe, although he started his exploits at Prince Edward. The rapid decay of Milton High's classrooms and sports amenities is even more shocking taking into account the school's rich history and success of its ex-learners.

Some Milton old boys have distinguished themselves in just about every sector in the world from the financial services sector to sport, but the sorry state of their former school is such that most elect not to be associated with it. The football, rugby and cricket fields are in a pathetic state. The tennis courts lie derelict, with no nets, while the swimming pool is a breeding ground for mosquitoes following years of total neglect.

The Milton High cricket field, which produced former Zimbabwe seam bowler and current SuperSport cricket pundit Mpumelelo Mbangwa has literally been abandoned. Thorns, overgrown grass and weeds cover the neglected field. The squash courts have been turned into living quarters, with a vegetable garden outside.

The rugby field needs a total revamp, with new lawn being planted.

Currently Milton High hosts its home games at Hartsfield because of the unplayable state of the school's field. Sad for a school that produced rugby greats such as current Sables' coach Brendan Dawson, Wesley Mbanje, Vusumuzi Ndebele, Theodore Weale, David Banda, Nkathazo Ndlovu, Mbekezeli Ndiweni, Aubrey Dube, Takura Madamombe, Norman Mukondiwa, Bernard Mukondiwa, George Savada, Lucky Sithole, Lloyd Machanjaira, Tafadzwa Manyimo, Honeywell Nguruve, Lou Corbi, Mike Micklesfield, Brian Beattie, Chris Rogers, Ronnie Hill and Sanele Sibanda. Dawson, Beattie and Nguruve were in the Zimbabwe squad for the 1991 Rugby World Cup, the last time the Sables made it to the tournament. Other sports personalities like footballers Nkululeko Dzowa, Methembe Ndlovu and Godwin Mangayi, cricketer John Nyumbu and 400m runner Arnold Payne are products of Milton High.

"It's carelessness, lack of interest maybe it's the economic problems making people concentrate on bread and butter issues or it's heads of schools, who only have an academic eye," said Newman Masuku, the SRC Matabeleland North coordinator.

Gifford has also not been spared the literal death of sport facilities, although its football fields are in a far better state nowadays, largely due to Zifa Southern Region Division One side Talen Vision, who train there and did some touch ups.

Their rugby field looks more like a meadow; yet it's the same field that produced the country's first black rugby national team player the late Milton Nyala. Former Northlea teacher and public relations expert Lenox Mhlanga bemoaned the poor state of the school's facilities, noting that during his time the fields were well maintained.

"They were all excellent and well maintained too. We were big in basketball and hockey. I was soccer coach and the Under-16 team I managed reached the semi-finals of the 1989 Dunlop provincial tournament. We also had squash, cricket, rugby, volleyball and netball," said Mhlanga.

Late football legend Willard Mashinkila Khumalo, Billy Daka, son to the late Barry, and Lawrence Chunda are all football greats churned out by Northlea. "I think it's a change of leadership at school management level because some of these school heads do not see value in having proper sports facilities. To them it's a waste of resources," said sports analyst Brian Moyo. "However, when you look at the condition of sports facilities at Prince Edward in Harare, which is a Government school as well, you can clearly see that it's just lack of interest by those in charge of Bulawayo schools.

"To date Prince Edward is making a lot of money by leasing out those facilities. They have excellent sporting facilities which defies general logic that Government schools' sports facilities are in a deplorable state," said Moyo, who also indicated that some schools don't want to get into partnerships.

When Chicken Inn stormed into the Premier Soccer League, their management reportedly approached Hamilton to use their football grounds, but their overtures were turned down and sadly now those same fields are used for urban cultivation.

"Previous administrations of these schools knew the value of sport, hence Zimbabwean school graduates ended up representing other countries like South Africa, Australia and England in sports such as swimming, rugby, tennis and cricket," said Moyo.

Source - chronicle