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The Impact of Covid-19 on Schools Hockey

Introduction

The unexpected novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has sent shockwaves throughout the world, leaving behind mayhem, devastation and destruction in its path. As a result, education has changed intensely, with the idiosyncratic rise of e-learning, whereby teaching is happening remotely and on digital platforms.

This virus has affected South Africans regardless of nationality, level of education, income or gender. But the same has not been true for its damage, which have hit the most vulnerable hardest. Education and Sport is no exception. This crisis has exposed the many shortcomings and inequalities in our educational systems. The year 2020 has been tumultuous and will definitely be recorded as one of the most unforgettable years of the 21st century.

In an article published online in March more than 80, 000 confirmed cases had been reported worldwide as of 28 February 2020.” Albeit these statistics were alarming, South Africans took comfort in the fact that we had not procured a substantial number of COVID-19 cases at the time. On 11 March 2020, the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. After this declaration was made, extreme panic ensued amongst the masses, in South Africa. Relief was then brought about once our government implemented COVID-19 regulations, protocols, social distancing and the compulsory wearing of masks. We then experienced a significant surge in the amount of positive COVID-19 cases which lead to the president, Cyril Ramaphosa, announcing a country-wide lockdown on the 23rd of March 2020 to contain the spread of COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a whirlwind of activity within the South African education system as educators, Departments of Education in various provinces and Ministers of Education had to plan, prepare and generate a new, accessible form of teaching and learning to save the educational year and complete the curriculum.

The effect that the COVID-19 pandemic had on the South African was truly devastating. The lockdown led to the deterioration of our economy, but where did it leave our sport and education system? The COVID-19 pandemic has damaged our education system this year, however, it has also encouraged diversification with regards to teaching strategies and it has inspired a dynamic collaboration between educators, learners and parents. 

In March we were cautiously optimistic that SASHOC events would be a reality, but this soon dissipated like mist in front of our eyes. Our event hosts were anxious as their time to secure venues and services were running out. The committee was still hopeful and contemplated change of dates and format. The tough decisions faced us as a committee when I was tasked to inform the nation that all events were cancelled until further notice. SASHOC was one of the first school codes to call off all events. Our decision was “ratified” and justified when the Minister of Education announced that all extra-mural activities were to be stopped and the academic were to take preference over sport and other non-academic activities.

The uncertainty of the return to play frustrated and depressed our players, coaches and administrators. Some of our coaches owned activities around the code and were employed at institutions. Schools derived less income and they became redundant. Needless to say many queries      

I share the frustration with the slow movement of getting schools to return to extra-mural activity. The Covid-19 has certainly taught us to create a new normal. SAHA has issued notice that they are preparing the protocols for Federations and club hockey to start training and certain events that need to be sanctioned. We have witness the return to competition for contact sport within a biological safe zone, (as per the PSL, CSA and SARU models) on approval of submissions.

With regards to School Sport, the Department of Basic Education still maintains that Federations have the capacity to advise on sport protocols, however the DBE is the final juristic authority regarding what is permitted within Schools and their extra mural curricular activity. What is not permitted as per previous announcements made by the Minister of Basic Education and the President on the latest level is School Sport and extra mural activities. There have been no further updates for Level 1 and the current reopening of schools’ sports and sport facilities.

In other words, the status quo remains until we hear otherwise. Federations need to apply to SAHA for their facility to be used and will receive a “Certificate of Operation”. ALL school facilities are still out of bounds until the DBE gives permission for them to open. They will then also have to apply for Certificates of Operation after complying with the COVID-19 regulations.

As we journey grappling with the uncertainty of what the future will look like, I am confident that this “silent killer” will be controlled and ultimately defeated. We need to be patient and responsible in how we manage our eagerness to get back to “normal”. Be rest assured that the SASHOC and SA Hockey admistrators are working to get the game back to what we knew it to be. Keep fit and healthy and in your preparation be responsible for yourself and ultimately for the safer health of our family and friends.

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