Saturday, March 12, 2005

Save the fields first (11/03/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 11/03/2005
Headline : Save the fields first

SPORTS in the country may be on the rise, what with the strong support
from the Government, who have been focusing on the grassroots level of
However, one important area seems to have been neglected: the fields.
All programmes and plans will come to nought if there are not enough or
even proper fields for the children to train on.
It is no secret there is a shortage of fields in the Klang Valley and
the other towns, where many a field have disappeared in the name of
Even school fields have not been spared where construction of new
classrooms, facilities like science and technology laboratories and car
parks has been given priority over fields.
A recent survey of 268 secondary schools showed 53 per cent of them lack
in one or more facilities of the the following: courts for badminton,
basketball, netball, sepak takraw, tennis, handball and volleyball; as
well as fields for football and hockey; multi-purpose courts, fields and
Many of the new schools also do not have fields or may have small-sized
fields which hardly could be used for any activities.
Some schools have to share fields with their neighbours, while many
fields are poorly or hardly maintained at all, making some of them
dangerous for sporting activities.
When asked about the lack of playing fields, Sports Minister Datuk
Azalina Othman Said said she was aware of the problem and was trying her
best to change the situation through the assistance of the Ministry of
Education and State Governments.
State Governments' help is sought as their lands come under their
jurisdiction, not the Federal Government's, where only a directive can be
the solution.
Appeals have been made to State Governments to have more fields and
parks, but more often than not, these often fall on deaf ears as the local
authorities may not consider it a priority.
In setting the wheels into motion, Azalina has this week at the National
Youth and Sports Exco meeting in Kota Kinabalu, requested the respective
States' Excos in charge of sports development to submit detailed reports
on facilities available for the eight core sports identified by the
Government - badminton, tenpin bowling, squash, gymnastics, hockey,
athletics, swimming and football.
The Government's plan to build 519 community sports complexes in State
constituencies may provide a solution to the problem, but more
importantly, it is the school fields which need to be in place.
The fields and other facilities in the schools could be a two-prong
solution because they could be used by occupants of residential areas
after school hours for community sports activities.
The community could also play their part in raising funds to ease the
burden on the schools authorities in managing and maintaining the
facilities, and work closely in creating sporting hubs in each State.
And teachers will have to play an even important role once the
facilities are in place.
Teachers too have not been contributing and in fact, they have received
more brickbats than accolades.
It is common to hear phrases like: "Gone are the days when we had
dedicated teachers who made sports strive in schools."
While in all fairness to the teachers who are earning meagre salaries,
they do no want to spend their time on the field after school hours, when
they can be giving private tuition for extra income.
Some teachers even become part-time car salespersons, sell direct-
selling products and kain batek in their school staff rooms, rather than
waste their time in the hot afternoon sun on the field.
Part of the blame is due to the ratio of school-teachers these days,
where females exceed the males, thus seeing many of the former not really
interested in sports.
Then, of course, even among the males, a majority of them do not have
sports backgrounds, even in the case of those who are products of teacher
training colleges and universities offering Physical Education (PE)-
related programmes.
A recent survey of 1,276 teachers from 248 primary schools in Peninsular
Malaysia by Univerisiti Teknoloji Mara's Faculty of Sports Science, led by
Dr Wee Eng Hoe, revealed more than half of PE teachers - specialised or
otherwise - have not attended related course after being posted to their
respective schools.
Not only teachers, but headmasters must also play a key role in their
respective schools.
Some headmasters, and it is more common if they are women, do not
particularly pay much attention to sports development.
However, there are still a dedicated few who keep sports alive in their
educational institutions.
This rare breed would spend hours on the field coaching, and acting as
counsellors, friends, fatherly figures and, above all, dedicated teachers.
These are the ones who are responsible for the talents coming out of
Teachers who produce these athletes should be rewarded and recognised,
if more of them are to surface.
All the machinery at the schools level has to be set right, before the
sports culture concept is expected to be part and parcel of Malaysian
In next week's column, the very foundation of a sports culture - parents
- will be discussed.

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