Need to spotlight sport

There is no denying the role of sports in sublimating extremist visceral and cerebral impurities of society

M Nadeem Nadir April 15, 2024
The writer is an educationist based in Kasur. He can be reached at


The International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP), which takes place annually on 6 April, presents an opportunity to recognise the positive role sport and physical activity play in communities and in people’s lives across the globe. The global theme for 2024 is ‘Sport for the Promotion of Peaceful and Inclusive Societies’.

Out of important guarantors of a peaceful, healthy and inclusive society, one is definitely sport which has never been on the radar of movers and shakers of our national policies. UNDP’s 2018 report says paltry 7 per cent of children and youth in Pakistan have access to a playground within or outside school while over 60 per cent don’t have access to any sport.

“The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton” is popularly ascribed to the Duke of Wellington, who was a graduate of Eton College and commander in chief of the British and allied armies at Waterloo. Metaphorically, the Duke emphasises the cachet the sports and playgrounds bestow upon their adherents.

As starters, primary and secondary levels of education are barren of all opportunities for sports. In primary schools, there is provision neither of Physical Education (PE) as a subject, nor a Physical Education Teacher (PET). However, despite the presence of a PET at secondary schools, no space and time are allocated to sport. The PE teacher is utilised to make up the deficiency of teaching staff, to act as a disciplinarian or to participate in extraneous community tasks such as polio campaign and local or national celebrations.

The plight of sport at private institutions is more abysmal. The ubiquitous private institutions do not support a playground in most cases. Housed in five to ten marlas, they by default do not put any premium on sports. Utter surprise at why they are registered by the authorities as educational institutions.

The rat race of achieving high grades was patented by these institutions just to gaslight the public that high grades are the summom bonum of the whole education of young minds. The private institutions that have playgrounds hold sports gala once a year to fulfil their duty of providing a “complete and comprehensive education”.

Nothing surprising if our youths are glued to the digital screen as they are cramped for playing space, and bereft of time because of the buzzing academic hustle of schools and tuition centres.

In our country, quite orthodoxically sports are gendered, predominantly considered a masculine prerogative. Social mores have stupefied our collective conscious to the point that sports careers are unimaginable for girls. This marginalisation of women does not let one think of the inclusion of transgenders in sports.

Our social DNA is encrypted with sports as wastage of time and energy. Given the scarcity of opportunities to pursue one’s dream of becoming an athlete, sports are never treated as a career choice.

In countries like Finland, England and China, physical education is taught as a compulsory subject or an ineluctable part of the school curriculum.

Our drought with gold medals at the Olympics speaks at higher decibels of our insularity to the clarion calls to bring sports in the education stream to balance the development of our society. Countries much poorer and less populated than ours pride themselves on bagging gold medals at international sports events.

There is no denying the role of sports in sublimating extremist visceral and cerebral impurities of society. Empty playgrounds are the harbingers of crowded hospitals.

It is high time that physical education was introduced as a compulsory subject at all levels of education. Playperiods must be a staple of school timetable. At tehsil level, a unitary sports college must be set up to nurture the sports talent at the grassroots level. The required qualification for athletes’ admission to this college must be matriculation. It would reduce the number of out-of-school children, and also widen the landscape of career choices for students.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2024.

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