Many of us come to UCT hoping to join a sports team and compete against other universities around the country. But this can be thought to be an unrealistic goal for some due to financial difficulties. Needless to mention the Fees Must Fall movement, which reminds us of the financial inequities. Furthermore, some may say our campus accommodates students who are disabled – how are these students being drafted into sports societies?
The question that one needs to ask is: how do we make sport at UCT more inclusive (with regards to affordability and accessibility)?
It must be said up front that UCT places a lot of effort and thought into trying to make the sports scene on campus as inclusive as possible. Although you may not agree with this statement, Muya Koloko, who is the Transformation Officer of the Students Sports Union (SSU) at UCT, clearly described how it is so.
If one of us wants to join a sports society, we have to pay a hefty cost which could range between R250 and well into the thousands. This is a cost that could be the sole reason for not participating in sport. It must also be said as a side note, that this does not even take into consideration the price for the equipment needed to play the sport.
A student has the option of either playing competitively (where it is often more expensive) otherwise alternatively, the social aspect of the sport is usually on offer as well (which tends to be more affordable). That being said, there are in fact [limited] funds set in place to cater for students who cannot pay. The problem, however, comes in two forms. Firstly, students who are unable to pay are not always forthcoming (which is understandable). Furthermore, the respective clubs and societies have often failed to make students aware of these existing funds. Therefore, according to Muya, spreading this information regarding monetary aid is essential in the seasons to come.
When we talk about making sport inclusive, this includes the disabled sports code. I have been fortunate enough to have been exposed to wheelchair rugby and blind soccer (which took place on campus). This faculty of sport does not get nearly enough attention. It tends to be subordinated – even on TV. Muya acknowledged that this is a difficult area – evident by surveys he has handed out over the years. These surveys asks students which sports they are physically not able to play and what sports are not offered at UCT. The reason why para-sport is a tricky area is because each year there are new disabilities that arise and often the demand is not high to full a team but at the end of the day, it is a demand nonetheless. Showcases continue to happen throughout the sporting season and efforts are being made to make the sporting landscape at UCT as diverse and inclusive as our nation. The logical solution to para-sports would be to persist with the releasing of surveys to students to allow the awareness or lack thereof to continuously flow.
A realistic solution to a monetary dilemma could be dishing out significant discounts to students who sign up during Orientation Week – when all the societies are on Plaza. What is stopping sportsmen and women from fundraising? We go to a top quality university, where we should be giving back to our community. Surely individual UCT sports societies could initiate programmes whereby they help out at local sports events at underprivileged sporting academies, and in turn, raise money that can be used to fund barred UCT students.
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.” – Nelson Mandela