The children at Ukhanyo Primary School in Masiphumelele received a major boost on Friday November 14, with the opening of the Ingrid Wheeler Field.
The 60m x 30m AstroTurf field is the latest project of the MasiSports programme and was made possible due to a donation from American citizen Fred Alger, in memory of his late partner, Ingrid Wheeler.
MasiSports is spearheaded by cricketer Vince van der Bijl, who began work in the area four years ago, starting at Ukhanyo Primary School.
At the time, the school had only one PE coach, one netball court and a short sprint track, no proper equipment and only the netball team played inter-school matches. Now all 2000 pupils have a PE lesson once a week. There are 19 coaches for the school’s 19 teams, which play official school matches in school-branded kit. Netball, cricket, rugby, soccer, cycling, basketball, athletics and chess are thriving. The school has three AstroTurf cricket nets and two artificial fields.
All matches begin with a life-skills session, focusing on concepts such as leadership and respect. Girls play on an equal footing to boys, and participate in all sporting codes.
“In a country beset by gender-based violence, the emphasis on gender equality in action is a key focus of the work done at Ukhanyo, as well as Masi High School,“ said Mr Van der Bijl.
“This is a Masi township life changer. For the very first time, Ukhanyo will host rugby, soccer and cricket matches and welcome schools and their entourages into Masiphumelele. This is critical to encourage integration between learners from different schools.”
Principal Michael Tyhali said: “I never thought in my time as headmaster we would host inter-schools matches at Ukhanyo. We will host netball, soccer, cricket and hockey matches. Our teams will be cheered on by parents, learners, staff and the community. It’s a dream come true.”
Last year, the project moved into Masiphumelele High School, where two netball courts were built and netball, soccer, chess, rugby and cycling were introduced.