The third Annual Bambisanani Partnership International Athletics Challenge, supported by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Sport and Recreation, brought together 15 primary schools: 11 from rural KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and 4 from the Bishop Wheeler Catholic Academy Trust in the Diocese of Leeds.
A total of 335 students (aged 9 and10) participated in a range six of athletics challenges in their own schools and then compared performances ‘virtually’ to create competition between the schools. More than 700 children from both countries have now participated in the Challenge since its inception in 2021.
The UK schools involved were all from the Bishop Wheeler Catholic Academy Trust and included St Joseph’s, Pudsey, St Mary’s, Horsforth, Holy Name, Cookridge and Sacred Heart, Ilkley. The South African schools involved were: Vumanhlamvu, Makhanyezi, Mvayiza, Iwangu, Kwa-Mtshwili, Mome, Ntumbeni, Sigananda, Mathiya, Iwangu and Ntolwane.
The Challenge was originally devised as a response to Covid restrictions by the Bambisanani Founder, David Geldart who explained,
‘The Bambisanani Partnership is about bringing young people together in sport from both countries in order that they can work together and learn together. Covid made us think more creatively in order to both sustain and develop our work; the virtual Athletic Challenge programme was a great success which resulted in more schools being involved this year. We have tried to create a simple and fun programme that reflects the very essence of athletics with an approach that brings relevance for everyone involved regardless of ability.
We have provided opportunities for youngsters to compete against themselves and against others, in their own school and between schools, in their own country and internationally. A wide range of awards reflect our values with certificates and medals available to learners in all participating schools for excellence, effort, progress and leadership. The Challenge provides multiple opportunities for learners to achieve and succeed; the response from schools, educators and learners has been fantastic. There was a further development this year with a central venue Athletics Festival being held in South Africa for schools from the Nkandla region. This Festival was supported by young Sports Leaders from St Mary’s School in Menston and Eshowe High School. Additionally, three new South African schools joined the Challenge this year.’
The programme gives great importance to all participants working hard to improve their own personal performance over time in six different events for both boys and girls: 50m run, 200m run, Standing Long Jump, Three Hop Jump, Tennis Ball Throw and Football Throw. Students were initially taught the basic activity and then established their own ‘personal best’ in each of the events. Over the following weeks and months, the children were given the opportunity to practice, rehearse and experiment in order to improve their performances. A remarkable 76% of all learners involved made significant progress over time in at least three different events and were awarded special certificates to recognise this.
All schools held their own competitions which created 130 new School Champions with the top three performers in each event receiving a certificate. In addition to this, 22 students were identified as being the best all-round performers across all events, another 22 were recognised as making the most improvement over all events and a further 22 students were celebrated as Exceptional Leaders for their work during the programme ‘helping, supporting and encouraging others’.
Three very exciting 10-person x 40metre relay events (Boys, Girls, Mixed) were also added for the International Competition, now making it 15 International titles to be decided. Each school submitted their best three performances in each of the 15 events for the international competition between schools. Inclusive of the relay events, 126 International Competition medals (‘Bronze’, ‘Silver’ and ‘Gold’) were presented to the top three performers/teams in each event.
David Farmer, Deputy Headteacher from St Joseph’s Primary School in Pudsey travelled to South Africa with the team of volunteers from St Mary’s, Menston and supported the Nkandla Athletics Festival said,
‘The children in both countries enjoyed the idea of an international competition and strived to beat their personal best. In competing against each other they wanted to win but there was always a sporting camaraderie cheering their classmates to achieve better results. In South Africa the young leaders commented that leading the athletics festival was unbelievably satisfying. They loved seeing the smiles of every child and helping them improve their technique as they grew in confidence. This competition gives a sense of achievement that develops confidence in other academic areas. A true Olympian ethos underpins this work promoting greater understanding of our worldwide community and wanting a fair playing field for all.’
Children from both countries showed their enjoyment of the events:
‘I liked competing against learners from the UK and learning about their country.’
‘I have won an international medal and now want to achieve more in sports and in school.’
‘I love running, throwing and jumping and I want to go to South Africa now!’
‘This challenge has been so much fun. We worked hard but it was worth it.’
David Geldart concluded,
‘My sincere thanks to all the schools, educators, volunteers and children involved in this growing event; we have had much to celebrate this year with some interesting new developments. Having student volunteers from Leeds and Eshowe to create an Athletics Festival for the South African primary schools was an outstanding success. Special thanks also the KZN Department of Sport and Recreation for their help and support; we look forward to further partnership work with them in the future. We are already thinking about developing the Challenge further in the Olympic year of 2024; possibly involving even more schools, more countries, more festivals, more volunteering and more related learning activities in the classroom – Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together!’
Well done to all the young people taking part – but a special mention must go to Joel from Holy Name Primary School who finished in the top three all six school-based events: three 1st places, one 2nd place and two 3rd places!
The Bambisanani Partnership was named as International Sport and Physical Education Charity of the Year 2023. It is a multi-award-winning UK based charity that originated as a partnership between St Mary’s Catholic School in Menston, UK and Mnyakanya High School in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa in 2006. The partnership, which is run entirely by volunteers, uses the power of sport as a catalyst to promote education, health, global citizenship and leadership and has gained international acclaim for its work. The partnership now involves many more schools and universities in both the UK and South Africa. The University of Leeds, Leeds Trinity University and Newcastle College are key members of the partnership. In South Africa the partnership operates in the Nkandla region which one of most remote and deprived parts of the country with over 90% unemployment and one of highest Aids/HIV rates in the world. ‘Bambisanani’ is a Zulu word meaning ‘working hand in hand’ which aptly encapsulates the philosophy of the partnership which seeks to provide collaborative learning opportunities for young people in both countries. Over the past seventeen years more than 12,000 young people from the UK and South Africa (from primary school to university) have participated in a variety of Bambisanani Partnership programmes and projects including ‘Leadership through Sport’, Sports Festivals’ Cycling to Success’, ‘Literacy through Sport’, ‘Numeracy through Sport’ ‘Art through Sport’, ‘Learning through Football’, ‘International Athletics Challenge’ and the joint training of Physical Education teachers and Sports Coaches. The work of the partnership has been highlighted at conferences throughout the world, most recently at the Global Sport for All Summit held at the Vatican.