Inclusion is more important than ever

30 April 2021 | People

Herman Katjiuongua

Our sense of belonging has taken a tremendous knock since Covid-19 reared its ugly head. We have been cut off from our daily lives, our normality and from our friends, family, colleagues and school mates. Even our daily micro-interactions have been compromised. There’s been little engagement with cashiers, shop staff, or the many interactions we took for granted as participants in everyday society. Now spare a thought for people and children whose lives are already more challenging for whatever reason. Perhaps they have a hearing impairment, are physically challenged in some way, or simply struggle because they are introverts who have difficulty making friends or feel they are not embraced in the same manner by society as they believe everyone is. This means they may feel left out, not part of ‘the club’ and certainly don’t feel included.

Social inclusion or ‘inclusivity’ is something that we don’t really speak about much, but now that we have all somewhat been removed from society because of Covid-19, it has become a point of discussion and a concept to be more closely examined. Isolation is something that we have all experienced in one way or another. As Elaine Hall said, “Inclusion elevates all’. She is making a point about how society is there for everyone and if everyone is not included, we do not benefit from people’s participation in society.

If we look at school learners, we hope to see a mass of happy children, all playing, running, learning and having fun together. However… this is not how school works, and certainly not how the playground works. Kids form groups; include or exclude who they want based on any number of reasons. Just think back to your own childhood and how you managed within the school that really was nothing more than a ‘jungle’. Excluding children or people can negatively affect them in the long term.

One way in which kids bond and form friendships, create support structures and develop social skills is through games and sports. It strengthens their mental health and makes them resilient and able to absorb disappointment as well as learn teamwork. If you can be part of activities, it is a wonderfully ‘inclusive’ place to be.

However, it’s not so simple. There are a lot of children who fall by the wayside. It is important to focus on how they can become participants in everyday activities. Making the effort to include all children in the activities and making them feel welcome and a valuable member of the group, gang or team is essential. There should be no hurdle to them being included and certainly there are no excuses to not let them participate in sports, games or physical education.

The Integrated Physical Education and School Sports (IPESS) project that is being rolled out across all 14 regions by the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture and in collaboration with the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service and stakeholders in education like GIZ has the promotion of ‘inclusivity’ as one of its drivers. This endeavours to have boys and girls participate in sports, games and recreational activities. There needs and will be a major focus on getting and keeping children engaged that are differently abled. Nurturing and teaching that every learner has the right and need to participate and be included

A society where we can all participate, be part of the team in whatever capacity uplifts us all as Elaine Hall stated. Sports and games can be a great unifier and are great for both the mental and physical development of children. Do not let it be an additional way of excluding children who often already feel left out. IPESS and the schools, teachers and trainers are teaching these important concepts through the IPESS programme. Life skills form the basis for well-rounded youngsters to become well-rounded and well-adjusted adults that contribute to an equitable society in Namibia.