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Children score life skills through soccer

Written by Dale Hes

Sport is a healthy pastime that can keep children busy and Grassroot Soccer South Africa goes beyond this, by providing mentorship and life skills education that enables thousands of children to take charge of their destinies. Grassroot Soccer reaches 70 000 children every year. Picture credit: Grassroot Soccer

The organisation has core sites in Alexandra, Soweto and Khayelitsha and also works with other partners in eight provinces to deliver programmes. Approximately 70 000 boys and girls are involved every year, between the ages of nine and 19. 

Managing Director Mbulelo Malotana says that the programmes are based on a ‘3 Cs’ approach, including a soccer-based curriculum, coaches who are caring mentors and a culture that promotes safe spaces and fun. 

He says this approach engages teenagers in learning and makes them feel supported. “We provide young people with the life skills they need to break down harmful social norms that negatively impact their health. We also use soccer-based activities and discussions to educate participants on HIV, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and gender-related issues that affect them and their communities.”

During the coronavirus pandemic, Grassroot Soccer has incorporated hand-washing, facts about the virus, physical distancing and ways to deal with stress into its programme. 

Pule Hlahane is a teacher at the Emshukantambo Secondary School in Soweto, which has partnered with Grassroot Soccer since it started. He says that he has seen children’s lives being changed as a result of Grassroot Soccer. 

It empowers young minds to make informed choices. I have seen shy learners becoming the best they can be, becoming leaders and champions because of the skills they have learnt. And this applies to both boys and girls.”

Hlahane says that many of the learners who participate in Grassroot Soccer perform better at school and also become role models for others. 

“For example, most of our learners know their HIV status because they freely and willingly volunteered to do HIV testing.”  

If you’re a parent or educator who wants to get children involved with Grassroot Soccer, contact them at 010 286 1268 (Johannesburg) or 021 426 5154 (Cape Town).