Sports Investment And Development; A Major Tool By Gov. Seyi Makinde To Reduce Out-of-school Children And Fight Unemployment In Oyo State.

By Kazeem Olalekan Israel
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It is not news that, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), one in every five of the World's out-of-school children is in Nigeria. According to statistics, today, with about 10,193,918 children, out-of-school, Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in sub-Saharan Africa. This, ordinarily calls for sober reflection and, should spur our leaders to take the necessary steps by investing in human capital development, most especially the proper funding of the educational sector and an improved sports' sector in ensuring that the country is repositioned to becoming the true 'Giant' of Africa.

We are very much aware of the fact that primary and secondary schools form the core of the educational sector, with primary education being the foundation of formal learning. However, in Nigeria of today, many children are out-of-school because their parents are impecunious or they don't find it attractive (the former is actually the case). But it is significant to note that the free education policy of Seyi Makinde has helped to increase the numbers of students that are enrolled in government schools across the State.

And kudos should also be given to the Oyo State Government for coming in terms with the fact that it closely related sports and physical activities with man's existence and also for exploiting it. In fact, the influence of sports on human co-existence which includes social relationships and the economy cannot be underestimated, and therefore, every government must invest in the sports' sector. The essence of incorporating sports activities in primary and secondary education through Physical and Health Education as a subject is basically with the aim to build in the students a sound mind in a healthy body. And it is specifically to meet the physical, emotional, social, physiological and intellectual needs of students. Unfortunately, Physical Education is more or less theoretical in our basic schools.

Ordinarily, play provides an inner understanding to a child. Through play, children can relate to their unfamiliar world, and also gain the desired experiences. In all these experiences, the child not only increases his physical and health status, he develops social relations and self-esteem. Therefore, failure to appropriately guide the child’s tomorrow from today may prepare the way for future failure.

Meanwhile, the recent purchase of sports' equipment for Secondary Schools across the State and the organisation of Governor’s Cup, Special Sports and other competitions at the secondary and primary school levels by the Oyo State Ministry of Youth and Sports will help elicit some potentials stars that could be nurtured.

The information issued by the National Bureau of Statistics which placed Nigeria's unemployment rate at 27.1% showing that approximately 21 million Nigerians are unemployed is enough to give each and everyone of us, most especially our political office-holders serious concerns what the future holds for the country. It cannot be gainsaid that the country direly needs jobs most especially for the teeming youths’ population, because, the more we ignore the poor, the more they turn out to eat the rich and the more we are confronted with the problem of insecurity.

In fact, if the Nigeria Football League had got its feet off the ground, the problem of unemployment would have been at the minimal, because sports investment contributes to fighting unemployment. It is on record that, in Europe, the Premier League (EPL) provides over 100,000 direct and indirect jobs through its body and clubs and, the EPL also generates a tax of £3.3bn which is a tenth of Nigeria’s 2021 annual budget. The South African Premier League also recorded R1 billion revenue in 2019. This is to tell us how far the country would have gone in curbing unemployment had it been serious attention is being paid to sports development by various sports' Ministries in the country (most especially the Ministry of Sports in Abuja).

To fight unemployment through sports' development, the Federal Government and States' Governments across board must take a leaf from the Oyo State Government's Youth Empowerment and Intervention Programmes lined up by the State's Agency for Youth Development, Youth Empowerment and Social Support Operation (YESSO) where 2,246 of Public Workfare were engaged and paid stipends between 2019 to June 2020.

As it stands today, the country needs innovative, deliberate and sustainable solutions to meet up with our ever-growing population and swarms of graduates released into our workforce now and then. In achieving this, government at all levels must tap into the goldmine of sports as is being done in Oyo State because, the right investment in sports can also open new opportunities in form of sporting academies and so on which will force our teeming youths population to channel their energies into mastering and pursuing careers in several sports. After all, our problem is definitely not a lack of talents.

Kazeem Olalekan Israel writes from Ibadan, Oyo State.

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