Jacobina Tangi Uushona
The year 2020 is certainly challenging for Namibia, the economy and its people. To be frank, the last few years have been challenging, but 2020 decided to throw Covid-19 into the mix – and that has become a whole new ballgame – if you pardon the expression. Far stronger economies are buckling under the havoc that the coronavirus has caused – and apart from the larger socio-economic complications, there is an even greater issue rearing its head. Something that we, at the Basketball Artists School (BAS), have taken note of with some alarm. The most vulnerable of our society, namely the children are being forgotten, left to fend for themselves as their parents and guardians struggle with no means of support. Jobs drying up, retrenchments rife and the informal economy in tatters has left the children twisting in the wind.
For ten years BAS has been a haven for kids from the marginalised communities in Windhoek, where they can come for academic tutoring, learn about life skills and play basketball after school. We at BAS envision communities where less-privileged children and youth are empowered, responsible and successful. It all started as a simple idea, get kids active, motivated and energised about the great sport of basketball and it would keep them away from the darker side of a life lived on the streets. Children embraced BAS with all the energy and motivation that only they can bring. What started as a simple after school programme has turned into a fully-fledged ‘After-Schools’ programme that engages school learners from primary school through to Grade 12 and university, with many returning after that to become volunteers. They learn basketball skills, learn to run drills and be competitive in a sporting manner. However, none of this happens before they have studied for school and completed the chores that they are assigned. Although we are founded on basketball playing ideals, we still believe education comes before everything else…even shooting hoops! BAS has an impressive track record with guiding young children through their growing phases, school career and proudly seeing them off to University or other tertiary institutions. Although, sometimes, just being able to give children a safer environment than their home environment and a good meal is already a great step up for them. BAS and its employees and volunteers, as well as donor organisations, such as GIZ, see the added value of the after schools programme, We have faced some challenges over the last 10 years, but our present emergency Programme is showing our resilience and despite the odds bringing us together and showing our best side. Going to school provided the kids with a sense of rhythm and routine, followed by BAS after school sanctuary until Covid-19 closed the schools. Throwing the lives of the children into disarray and depriving them of their safe school environment. BAS stepped in and many of the kids have now joined BAS 24/7 during lockdown, keeping them off the streets and keeping them safe, engaged, fed and away from ‘bad things’ as they often call it, which they see in their home and community environments.
The temporary “BAS hostel”, has transformed the Covid-19 crisis into a chance for our kids to grow their resilience, self-awareness and personal skills. Instead of going backwards during the lockdown, our kids are blossoming and taking big steps forward. This is possible through a tough schedule for every child taking part, including tutoring, life skills, self-reflection and much more.
The pressures on our organisation to keep it afloat have become immense; however, we are determined to continue to be a haven for the kids of the most vulnerable communities. We need the assistance of the community as well and sponsorship pf course. They often say it takes a village to raise a child, in our case, it takes a basketball court to raise a child. BAS would like to continue to do this for many years to come and keep the basketball bouncing for the kids.
Jacobina Tangi Uushona