Sex, sport and self-esteem

This year, two hundred thousand young people from every part of South Africa participated in the country’s largest inter-school sports and development initiative, reports David Harrison

Picture a 14 year-old girl from a far-flung village in the Northern Province. She has never been on a tar road before.

Such a young girl typically expects to have had sex by age 16 and be pregnant while still a teenager. This year she played barefoot in the loveLife Games at Potgietersrus. She is suddenly confronted by a different lifestyle – an exciting one that encourages her to be assertive, to shape her own future by making informed choices and living a positive, healthy life.

The loveLife Games is a six-month festival to celebrate a healthy lifestyle. The games combine sports, entertainment, drama, graffiti art, debating and motivational development. Forty regional and nine provincial events culminated in the national competition, which were held in Durban in October 2001.

Over a thousand teachers gave up holidays and weekends to participate in a training programme aimed at effectively communicating the message of loveLife and ensuring sound organisation of the games.

loveLife Games TV and a special radio broadcast licence provided extensive coverage of provincial and national activities.

Surveys of the regional games involving interviews with 570 teachers and 1 200 school children show that the loveLife Games were a remarkable success. Over 95% of participating teachers say they have been an effective way of promoting positive lifestyle choices.

Young people and teachers consistently rate their effectiveness over 85% across a range of learning outcomes.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect was the discovery of new sports, debating and artistic talent.

The games are deliberately structured to ensure participation of disadvantaged schools at every level of the competition, and young people are encouraged to try out new areas of interest.

Andile Genge was a real find. The loveLife Games was his first exposure to formal debating. And in the face of stiff competition from pupils from prestigious schools, this 16-year-old from Orange Farm made it into the national debating squad.

loveLife’s aim is to promote healthy living and positive sexuality among 12- to 17-year-olds, using popular youth culture. The campaign aims to enable young people to experience a lifestyle based on informed choice, shared responsibility and positive sexuality.

The games are a partnership between loveLife and the United Schools Sports Association of South Africa.

David Harrison is the CEO of loveLife

– The Teacher/M&G Media, Johannesburg, November 2001.

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