Ground Realities

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Ground Realities

Before the sheen of the gold medals won by Indian sportsmen at the ongoing Delhi Commonwealth Games wears off, here’s a point to ponder: You can’t hope to create sportspersons of global standards if your schools can’t even boast of a decent playground. One look at the sports infrastructure in most government and private aided schools in Bangalore, and you know something is horribly wrong!

And, if you thought the schools could depend on the grounds maintained by the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), there’s another startling spoiler. Going by the Palike’s own estimates, there are only 150 playgrounds in good condition. This is the state of a City bursting at its seams with about 10 million people, a huge proportion of which are students, all set to guide its destiny!

The future doesn’t appear rosy as well. In its budget for 2010-11, the State Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has allotted barely Rs. 3 crore to be spent on constructing new playgrounds and compounds for government schools. As officials themselves admit, this money wouldn’t be sufficient even to acquire land for the grounds, particularly so in a City like Bangalore.  

If tomorrow is so bleak, what do you think the Government is doing about today’s schools. It has made a provision for government schools without adequate sports facilities to conduct play sessions at BBMP parks, vacant grounds, etc.  But ask the Physical Trainers at these schools, and they will tell how its tough to train students when there is rampant eve-teasing and ogling by residents fo the area.

There are other problematic reasons too. As a government school PT master reveals, “The open spaces are used by the residents to play games or conduct private events. Because of these, we cannot conduct classes at the municipal grounds.”  
Many schools which do have a semblance of sports infrastructure, boast of only swings, slides, merry go-rounds and hoops for students. Equipment for outdoor games such as cricket, volleyball, basketball is a rarity in many schools.

Private schools: Different yardstick Interestingly, while the Department doesn't insist on playgrounds for government schools, private schools are required to show proof of a ground before they apply for grants. The rationale for a softer option on government schools is explained by KR Shashidhar, Commissioner, Department of Public Instruction: “Having a playground is not difficult for schools in villages where lack of land doesn't pose any problem. The situation in cities, however, is totally different. With skyrocketing land prices, acquiring a site for playground attached to a school is a Herculean task.”

The private schools are feeling the heat of this approach. For instance, even traditional games such as hockey are not conducted at Vijaya High School in Jayanagar due to space crunch. Gururaj MA, the School’s Physical Education Instructor explains: “We are not able to offer volleyball, hockey, and cricket lessons for students due to lack of open space.” The alternatives provided by the school are chess, caroms, skipping and hopscotch.

Yet, despite this lack of proper sporting facilities, there have been some students even from government schools who have carved a niche for themselves on the playing fields. “Given the sporting achievement of students coming out of such schools, the Government should do something to identify their talent by providing proper facilities,” reasons Elvis Joseph, Director, Bangalore School Sports Foundation.  

C Honnappa Gowda is one among the many government schools students who have broken the stereotype to show that they too can challenge the world. An acclaimed Kabaddi player and an Arjuna awardee, Gowda says his teacher was instrumental in making him take up athletics.

He is convinced that there is a way to help government schools churn out good sporting talents: By spotting and nurturing them. Gowda now trains government school students to identify their sporting prowess in Kabaddi. 

But the problem is not only about infrastructure. There is a serious shortage of well-trained physical instructors, refresher courses and knowledge-sharing activities. Under-trained sporting staff has exacerbated the crisis in several aided as well as unaided schools, say experts.

“Like science and arts, sports education too has an important role in the holistic development of a child. There is a need to update our skill sets periodically. The training sessions are often not of much help," says an instructor of a government school in Frazer Town.

With the DPI now set to make sports mandatory for middle and high school students, it is hoped that authorities might be motivated to improve the sports infrastructure. But that requires immediate action on the playing field!


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