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Institutionalizing physical activity programmes for people with disabilities: Perspectives from Nigeria

Copyrights: Guy Perrenoud - OFSPO

Institutionalizing physical activity programmes for people with disabilities: Perspectives from Nigeria

Most institutions in Nigeria do not make provision for PWDs in their annual intramural events and weekly recreational activities. There is a need for systemic intervention from federal and state ministries of education for inclusive physical education and sport programmes at all levels of education.

Sports for persons with disabilities (PWDs) has been in existence over 100 years. The first Sport Club for the Deaf was established in 1880 in Berlin. Integration of PWDs into the sports world was demonstrated in 1960, with the establishment of policies and participation of 23 countries in the first Paralympic Games.

However, the grassroots integration of PWDs has been by convenient recruitment. This is usually done when athletes are sought for Paralympic competitions at both national and international events. In this case, states and federations often take advantage of accessible opportunities.

In academic and sport communities, there exists a good amount of knowledge that physical activity and sport serve as instruments of great motivation for most individuals, including PWDs. However, the time-bound structure of academic programmes diverts attention of university sports units away from PWDs.

As a sport practitioner, this call for article raises my consciousness of the need to admit PWDs into human kinetics and sports programmes. Generally, most institutions in Nigeria do not make provision for PWDs in their annual intramural events and weekly recreational activities.

Grassroots development has been associated with sequential educational strategies to optimize inclusive participation, physical literacy for healthy lifestyle and career pursuit opportunities in sport, and lifetime physical activity sustainability. Grassroots integration requires awareness of PWDs' rights to physical activity and sport opportunities, making educational phases key to policy implementation.

From primary to secondary and post-secondary education, there are barely any inclusive physical education and sports programmes for PWDs, who experience isolation and often struggle to keep up with academic rigour while maintaining their physical, physiological and psychological capacities. In tertiary education institutions, PWDs are usually completely alienated from physical activity and sport programmes.

Challenges and the barriers are, therefore, multidimensional. They include a lack of or inadequate sport education for including PWDs in physical activity and university sport, lack of advocacy and collaborative efforts to involve PWDs in university recreation sport, national or international games.

Further, the university sport body in my country has limited resources to manage sport at a national and international scene, and adding inclusive programmes for PWDs might be the last straw on the camel’s back.

Nigeria has structured Paralympic events in its national programmes and a federation as well, but there is no structure for inclusive policies in institutional sports. This calls for systemic intervention from federal and state ministries of education for inclusive physical education and sport programmes at all levels of education.

This need for systemic intervention has become even more important in the landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic, as a majority of the PWDs have become even more inactive and sedentary.

There is a need to enlighten campaigns to target PWDs, parents, and other stakeholders through various media channels to encourage PWDs to join sporting programmes. Physical education teachers, coaches, student bodies, university management and supportive service units all need to collaborate to make this a reality.

Olufunmilola Leah Dominic (Ph. D.)  is the current Directors of Sports and a Professor of Exercise and Sport Science in University of Ilorin, Nigeria. She is seasoned athlete, from grassroot to elite performance, since 1974, and transitioned to a coaching career both at state and institutional sports in 1985.

[This article has been edited by the Operating Team.]

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Wednesday, November 25, 2020 - 18:12