The Only Sport-football Center at Kwara State College of Islamic and Arabic Legal Studies. Credit: Sherifdeen Olamilekan

Sherifdeen Olamilekan writes,

Kwara state’s tertiary institutions are well-known for their well-grounded academia. But something grievous lies on their sporting project. In-depth, many of them favor football only – a circumstance which has seen a lot of students lost their talents and hard-earned skills along the way. Such is Maryam Isiak, a die-hard lover and fantastic player of basketball who had, before securing admission into Kinsey College of Education, Ilorin, dreamt of becoming the Cynthia Cooper of Nigeria.

However, Maryam’s talent was haunted because her school could not provide a basketball court; talk not of possessing a basketball team. Meanwhile, the recent graduate of Computer/Intergrated science played basketball in top level throughout her basic and secondary school days. 

“It actually happened that basketball, among all other sports, is the one my heart is devoted to, I played it all my school years, participating in various inter-schools competitions and loved the game all my life, not until I secured admission into Kinsey where this dream of becoming a star in the game was hindered, solely because the school did not prioritize any other sports asides football”, She said, while the strain of her ordeal was evident in her shaky voice.

Maryam lost interest in basketball and her passion and talent reduced when she noticed that it was only football the school gives its least care, with those who played it would even borrow the field from outside the school.

In Ruins, The Only Table Tennis Spot in College of Education, Ilorin. Credit: Sherifdeen Olamilekan

Like Maryam, so is Hammad Olarewaju, a 100-level Political Science/Social Studies student of Kwara State College of Education, Ilorin, who, throughout his neighborhood, is known as a table tennis champion. Hammad could foresee a table tennis team in his new school which he would be able to join and use its opportunity to level up his game. But on getting into school, what he met was a dilapidated outdoor tennis table with neither a team, nor a coach.

“I was popular in my area, I’m a table tennis champion, I had dreamt big ahead of the game, and I never for once felt that I cannot represent Nigeria in an international level, but what I saw here in COED really baffled me and made me lose my hope, just one tennis table for the whole school? Since then, I remarried football because that’s the only thing the school prioritizes”, Hammad bitterly lamented, in utter disappointment.

The Availability and Condition of Sporting Facilities in Some Kwara Tertiary Institutions

A random but thorough visit to some Kwara tertiary institutions by this reporter really exposed that there’s more than meets the eyes. The disappointing unavailability of some major key materials and the cracky appearance of those available and how all the things called sporting centers look would really question every participant’s passion and desperately hinder their desire.

Football Stand at COED, Ilorin, Overgrown with Heavy Weeds. Credit: Sherifdeen Olamilekan

With all the attention being sought after football, those pitches for it still cannot be estimated to secure inter-states, talk not of national competitions. What was gathered in the end is that all other sports’ centers that are not for football have been abandoned – that’s also when they are available.

From just a glance, the stand at the Kwara State College of Education football arena has been overgrown with weeds. The pitch is also with wooden goalposts that are, to this moment, crying for nets. Also, the only sports center in Kwara State College of Islamic and Arabic Legal Studies is a football pitch which takes a whole hebdomad to drain after every slightest rainfall. 

The Mas’ud Elelu Sports Arena in Kwara State Polytechnic only boasts of a football pitch heavily covered with scary and dangerous bushes and an abandoned basketball court while the Al-hikmah sports arena of the Al-hikmah University just boasts of a five-a-side football pitch and a volleyball court with dangerous weeds around.

The Mas’ud Elelu Arena, Kwara State Polytechnic. Credit: Sherifdeen Olamilekan

For the state of sporting facilities, the ones lacked and the ones abandoned and those ones destroyed, it’s unknown to these students yet as to whether it’s the state’s, schools’ or the students’ bodies’ faults, with an emphasis on all of the facilities available in utter despair.

But about two months ago, in August, a report published by a Kwaran media house, Informant247, testified to a distortion from the Chairman of the State’s Sports Commission acknowledging that there are four indoor sports hall in the Kwara State Stadium Complex and were all under renovation, in which Informant247 counters it with that it’s only one indoor sports hall with evidence.

“The Chairman of the Sports Commission acknowledged that there is only one Indoor Sports Hall at the stadium complex during our reporter’s interview with him – which is on record – and one would be surprised to see that the rejoinder he personally signed had to depict about four other facilities separately as Indoor Sports Hall – what a contrast!”, the report stated, depicting the act from the commission as one means to embezzle funds.

World Organizations on Sports and Education

Besides that talents are being haunted, and futures of the starlets are hindered, the importance of sports to students have been well-told by various world organizations. In a recent publication of the WHO titled ‘Promoting Physical Activities through Schools: Policy Brief’, it disclosed that physical activity is good for hearts, bodies and minds. And that its regulation can improve physical fitness; reduce adiposity in children and adolescents; and improve cognitive function, including academic performance and mental health.

The report furthered that Global estimates indicate that over 80 per cent of young people in school are not meeting the global recommendations of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day. And this leads to too much sedentary behavior which is unhealthy; as it increases the risk of obesity and poorer fitness and cardiometabolic health, and also affects sleep duration all which could alter learning.

A 2021 publication of UNESCO revealed the organization’s project of an approach called Sustainable Development Goal on Quality Education, which centered on and advocated for inclusive lifelong learning opportunities and innovative content delivery which majorly was sports.

Another 2015 publication of UN stated that Sport has proven to be a cost-effective and flexible tool for promoting peace and development. It also states that sport is an important enabler of sustainable development and that regular participation in it provides various social and health benefits. “Not only does it have a direct impact on physical fitness, but it also instills healthy lifestyle choices among children and young people”, the article stated.

Students Continue to Speak on Their Campus Trauma over Worrying Sporting Project

Lawn Tennis Court at COED, Ilorin. Credit: Sherifdeen Olamilekan

24 year-old Samuel Oluwatimileyin, a 300-level student of Kwara State College of Education, Ilorin, took a break from his ball-work training session to unveil his pains when he wanted to narrate his grief-stricken ordeal to this reporter. He loosed his laces as if to gain some comfort, then sighed heavily before pouring out what had been buried in his mind. The English language student’s deepest worries are first; why a college as old and renowned as his school does not boast of a school football team, now not to talk of other sports. And second, the poor maintenance which has beclouded the provided sporting centers.

“The school gives its only priority to football, yet, no school football team, but whenever there’s an upcoming football tournament, they go on and handpick potential talents from some departments and borrow fields from outside the school to train. Also, there’s no maintenance, where we are now has turned into a forest as you can see, females even fear to come here and watch us jog or play together, while there’s also no base sports center in any of the school hostels”, Samuel said.

But for Ogunwale Olamilekan, Samuel’s school’s SU sports director, who’s a 300-level student of PHE, the problem sources from lack of finance by the state government, bad leadership, and the inability of this leadership to elect people who love and cherish sports into the high sporting seats. He further explained on how he’s also a victim of the horror.

Ogunwale’s words, “The problem ranges from inability to spend money to bad leadership, these politicians do not select people who really love sports as any institution’s sports leading personnel. And I’m also a victim myself, in my secondary school days, I remember, I could play up to eight different kinds of sports, now, I can barely manage and play three, as you can see, all we have are just one poor field, one poor tennis table, and one other poor basketball court”.

Al-Hikmah University’s Sports Arena Which Only Boasts of a 5-a-side Football Pitch and a Volleyball Court. Credit: Sherifdeen Olamilekan

Abdulkadir Muhammad Sani, a 300-level banking and finance student of Al-hikmah University, cried out that thousands of talents have been buried because the university’s sports arena only boasts of a five-a-side football pitch and a volleyball court. “What then about the fate of other people who play badminton, lawn tennis or basketball?” Muhammad questions rhetorically, in grief.

But his university’s student sports director, Auwal Muhammad Kabir, a member of the school’s Dawah Committee, ASDAC, reassures that measures to develop in other sporting areas have been put in place, citing that he has just assumed office not long.

“I’ve just assumed office this semester and I’m personally bothered by the situation as well, but I can promise you that all our requests, including the completion of the sports arena, have been tabled to the management, and we pray that they grant them sooner than later”.

Ashyahu Wuraola Nuhu, a handball player and a 400-level student of Kwara State University from human kinetics education department, believed that she would have improved in the handball game a lot and perhaps have been representing the school or probably the state. But her school gave the most priority to football.

“I would have improved and prolly representing my state at national levels but we face a lot of setbacks as handball players here, we have no full training equipment, we travel to play matches representing the school in championship even with no feeding allowance solely because we’re not the footballers. We also often win free tickets to play abroad, but no school and government will be there to support us”, the 400-level student explained.

For Abdulqadir Abubakar, an ND1 student of Kwara State Polytechnic, the short training time and the discrimination on ND1 students hindered his talent and passion for volleyball, he also vowed, like Ashyahu to have been representing his state if his school wasn’t like that. “If we were opportune to join the team from ND1, I would have gone far even to be representing my state, but in my school here, we ND1 students, we don’t have a say, we have an indoor volleyball court but there’s still low duration for training. He said.

“The Problem Comes from the Government, and the Solution Goes to Them” – Lecturer, Expert

On his part, Mr. Rasheed Onigbegiri, the College of Education, Ilorin’s sports coordinator, who’s also a lecturer in the PHE department and as well a sport practitioner and expert, explained how the problems source from the government’s lack of finance, and that whenever there’s any, those who they give the project to are those who squander it.

“The major problem is finance from the government, and whenever they finally decide to facilitate a sport facility, the government doesn’t seem to understand the difference between a contractor of civil engineering and a contractor of facility management. While we care that the government give the project to the latter, they always tend to seek asylum with the former and this is where the problem sources from”, Mr. Onigbegiri stated.

“I remember that I almost fought with the college’s director of sports when the construction of the basketball court was ongoing telling him that the structure of the construction is faulted and would lead us to nowhere. Later, I learned that the original version of what we actually needed costs only ten million naira while the school management received over fifty million naira from TetFund only to construct a fake, undulating basketball court that didn’t last us up to five months.”

The PHE lecturer faulted the government in giving out funds without follow-up plans through its construction agencies. He proffered his solution to as if there should be follow-ups and consequent penalties to whoever squandered the Government’s money over execution of bad projects, all hands would be on deck and the students won’t have to lose talents any longer due to non-existence of sporting facilities.

Crumbling Tennis Table at College of Education, Ilorin. Credit: Sherifdeen Olamilekan

To Mr. Hamidu Olowo, the secretary of the Kwara United Football Club, it’s not the Government only but also, it falls on other three things; first is interest, second is maintenance and third is misconception.

“Some schools don’t actually have interest in sports that they even divert students sports levy and sports facilities funds from government into something else, second is the ability of these schools to maintain their facilities after provision, and third is misconception, we’re in the North, we have just started to be developing in sports here gender-wise, as before, sports were only for the boys”, the sport expert and retired NPFL referee referenced.

He concluded by faulting the government over assigning the work of a carpenter to a bricklayer and closed up his solution from there. “Look at the Kwara United of yesterday and today, compare and contrast the both, we only tend for flourish now in the top tier solely because all members of our boards now are constituted of only experts and educated professionals in the football game. I have a BSc in PHE, an MSc in Human Kinetics and I’m a retired referee, so as you can see, my assignment can never be strange to me, so as others that constitute this current board, that’s why you can only see the Kwara United up front nowadays”, he recounted.

Chairman, Kwara State Sports Commission Reacts

In a physical interview with this reporter, Mr. Bolakale Magaji, the chairman of Kwara State Sports Commission said that the lack of sport facilities in tertiary institutions has nothing to do with the Sports Commission, as they’re not the one receiving or managing their budget, but stated that he’s been working to meet the commissioner of tertiary education to work on how sports facilities can be developed in these schools, citing that he’s also well aware of the whole condition. 

His words, “I can’t answer you on this issue because I’m not the one whom their budget is being paid to, I don’t control their affairs, so, the problem is from the ministry of tertiary education. But I’ve really been working since I’ve assumed office to meet with the tertiary education ministry’s heads to talk about how sports can be best developed in our tertiary institutions and I hope to attain that very soon.”

However, the ministry of tertiary education failed to respond to this reporter’s inquiries on the ministry’s awareness over these pervading issues. Several calls, text and WhatsApp messages put across and sent to the known phone number of the state’s commissioner of tertiary education, Dr. Afees Abolore Alabi, are unanswered and not replied to as at the time of filing this report.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *