Nairobi schools' Jacob Aleu (with the ball) is guarded by Langata High School's Darel Opiyo  during their Schools Games basketball match at State House Girls High School on March 13, 2020.

| Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

Deadly virus wipes out games calendar, denying young players chance to shine

What you need to know:

  • KSSSA officials optimistic sports will go hand in hand with academics in revised but shortened  2021 calendar
  • All local primary and secondary school championships, the planned East Africa and the world school games were postponed due to Covid-19

Fixtures nightmare, re-arranged calendar and tough Covid-19 protocols are just some of the challenges that organisers of primary and secondary school games will battle next year.

Every year, primary and secondary school games have produced talent for clubs and also national teams.

Ofafa Jericho's Calvins Were (right) attempts to stop Charles Odhiambo of Dagoretti High School during their Schools Games rugby match at Upper Hill High School on March 13, 2020.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

The same cannot be said for 2020, which has seen wasted opportunities as Covid-19 emerged the biggest threat to the churning out of new talent on the fields.

When the first case of coronavirus the pandemic was reported in the country on March 12, Term One Games were at the county level as schools battled for slots to the national games, oblivious of what lied ahead.

Two days later, President Uhuru Kenyatta closed all schools in Kenya in view of the pandemic, four weeks to the scheduled end of the first term on April 10. The order to close schools was aimed at protecting the lives of learners and teachers.

Hope soon turned into despair on July 8 when Education Cabinet Secretary Prof. George Magoha announced that the 2020 school calendar would be considered lost for public and private schools.

World School Games

Kenya Secondary Schools Sports Association (KSSSA) had lined up a bevy of activities for the year that would culminate in the country competing in the World School Games in Jinjiang, China for the first time.

China had pledged to cater for accommodation and 80 per cent of all travel costs for African teams. The event, which was to feature  22 disciplines, was pushed to next year.

The East Africa Secondary School Games were also due to return to Kenya after a four-year absence, but all that must now be forgotten in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

Other than South Sudan who were due to return to the championship after missing the past two editions, Malawi, Ethiopia and Comoros were expected to field guest teams.

Dignitaries from International Schools Sports Federation and the World School Games had also confirmed attendance in the 19th edition of the championship.

Alakhonya Anzala of Aga Khan Academy in Mombasa dribbles past Mbaraki Girls players in their Mvita Sub County School Games at Aga Khan Academy grounds on February 27, 2020.

Photo credit: Laban Walloga | Nation Media Group

Kenya hosted the inaugural edition in 2002 in Nairobi and has since hosted the championships at Mombasa (2004), Kisumu (2007), Nakuru (2010) and Eldoret (2016).

Covid-19 pandemic denied hundreds of other talented players a platform to showcase their talent and scouts the opportunity to recruit them.

Secondary schools Term One games feature basketball, rugby 15s and sevens, hockey, swimming, handball and athletics.

This year, some 1,900 students were expected to converge on Kapsabet Girls Secondary School and Kapsabet Boys Secondary School for Term One national championships from April 4 to 11, but that was not to be as Covid-19 struck when teams were preparing to compete in their respective regional championships.

Term Two national games

On the other hand, Term Two national games featuring football, volleyball, racket games, and netball were to be held at Kakamega High School and Mukumu Girls High School from July 31 to August 9. Term One national special games for secondary schools (athletics competitions) were scheduled for Moi Girls High School in Eldoret from April 14 to 22.

The resumption of sports in the country offers hope to students as well as Kenya Secondary Schools Sports Association (KSSSA) and Kenya Primary Schools Sports Association, the two bodies charged with organising school games.

Part of the action during the opening Group 'A' match between St Anthony Boys Kitale (in red) and Shimba Hills from Kwale in the Kenya Secondary School Sports Association (KSSA) Term 2 Games at Moi Stadium, Kisumu on July 30, 2019.

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega | Nation Media Group

However, it presents a big puzzle to the organisers whether the government will sanction the games to resume alongside other co-curricular activates like music and drama festivals.

If they are allowed to proceed, how will they ensure that Ministry of Health protocols are followed and, when will the games be held with the Ministry of Education releasing a new calendar?

The Term One and Two Secondary Games are usually held in the April and August holidays, same as the National Primary Games.

According to the Education Ministry, the resuming class will be in school for their second term from January 4 until March 19, 2021. They will then proceed on a seven-week break ending May 9.

During the holiday, Class 8 and Form 4 will sit their KCPE and KCSE examination.

This means that Form four and class eight students are at risk of missing the national games if they are to be held in April. Secondly, as a mandatory requirement, participants in secondary schools Term One and Two games should be 19 years and under. Some students for whom the 2020 academic year calendar has been wiped will be ineligible for the championships.

Mua Girls High School basketball players train on the eve of the Brookside Kenya Secondary Schools Sports Association (KSSSA) National Term One Games at Shimo la Tewa Secondary School in Mombasa on April 8, 2019.

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group

Through no fault of their own, the wasted academic year means they turn a year older in 2021 and subsequently miss out on what could be their last chance to compete in school games.

KSSSA Secretary General David Ngugi, in an earlier interview with Nation Sport, said his team will table the matter for discussion with KSSSA and Federation of East Africa Secondary Schools Sports Association (FEASSSA) officials to find a way out so that students are not punished through no fault of their own.

“We hope to consider those who would have played this year but missed the chance due to Covid-19. It is a matter that we hope to discuss at the national level, and even at the East Africa Secondary School games almost immediately when schools reopen. We want to engage everyone so that talented players don’t miss platform to showcase their talent,” Ngugi, who is also FEASSSA Secretary-General, said.

Isse Mohammed Aden of North Eastern's Boys Town (right) vies for the ball with Kilonzi Daniel of Machakos Boys during the Under-16 category of the Coca Cola Kenya Secondary School Sports Association (KSSSA) Term Two games at Kisumu Polytechnic grounds, Kisumu on July 31, 2019.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

While KSSSA has already held seminars across the country to train teachers on how to conduct games under covid-19 protocols, the final decision lies with the government. KSSSA chairman, Peter Orero, maintains that the games are part of academics, and should resume alongside learning.

“Not all students are good in books, some have other talents and these games have shown that. So it is only prudent that we also be allowed to resume our competitions next year, Orero, who is also the principal of Dagoretti High School, noted.

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