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Practical approaches to sport and physical activity in public schools
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In order to restore the decline in physical activity among school children in Ghana, new approaches that are innovative, sustainable and contextually feasible for children are required in public basic schools.

The COVID-19 pandemic altered many human activities and societal engagement, while bringing to light vulnerabilities and imbalances which need rethinking and new approaches in helping to reshape the impasse. Physical activity boosts the immune system while improving the physical health of the individual. In Ghana, the absence of sport and physical activity in public schools presents severe consequences, especially for healthy growth of children, proper integration of children into society, learning process and developing talents for future sporting activities in general. This commentary proposes a strategic framework for Active Schools’ Program on practical approaches to physical activity, aimed at promoting healthy life style practices in school children.

Introduction

Movement behaviours in the 24-hour period among children and youth have set down exponential interest in public health research and practice (Tremblay et.al, 2017). Across the globe, the recommendation to participate in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) of 60 minutes daily has not been achieved (Daly-Smith et.al, 2021). In view of this, for example, Canada has released evidence-informed 24-hour movement guidelines for children and youth. Furthermore, the Australian Government in 2008, developed the first national guidelines for physical activity and sedentary behaviours for early years (Okely et.al, 2017). In 2010, the United Kingdom reviewed and updated their existing guidelines on physical activity for children to respond to emerging scientific evidence on sports medicine.

More recently, in Ghana there have been calls to develop school-wide approaches to physical activity that will foster movement perspective and healthy lifestyle behaviours among school children (Okely et.al, 2017). The Ghana Education Service recommends at least 80 minutes of physical activity per week in schools, but this is not the case in practice. Ghana’s 2018 report card further indicated that the failure of children and youth in achieving the required recommendation poses a threat to their health and active learning (Report Card, 2018). The report recommended a strategic approach to physical activity programs, which is necessary to promote healthy and better life for school children.

In order to restore the decline in physical activity among school children in Ghana, new approaches that are innovative, sustainable and contextually feasible for children are required in public basic schools.

Despite calls on the development of effective school-based approaches in sustaining change and behaviour movement, it is unclear what the most effective approaches are (Daly-Smith et.al, 2020). This may be as a result of challenges of structural defects, infrastructure gap, and lack of holistic framing, poor managerial and organizational practices, inadequate multi-stakeholder involvement, and sustainability measures during the implementation of physical activity programs in schools (Daly-Smith, 2020). Indeed, this gap has inspired the need to co-produce interventions in a way that would combine both bottom-up and top-down approaches to create ‘system change’ (Daly-Smith, 2020).

Thus, we propose the initiation of Active Schools’ Program (ASP) that embraces ambidextrous managerial and organizational practices in public basic schools in Ghana.

Ambidextrous managerial practices

Ambidexterity attained a widespread recognition in management circles when OReilly and Tushman used it in their article published in Harvard Business Review in 2004. According to Feza (2019), the concept traces its features to the ancient Roman god Jonas - with two sets of eyes where one pair concentrates on past events while the other set focuses on future events. It signifies managerial practices where managers can always look back and bring to bear the old best practices that have been neglected - in this case, the old physical activity concept in elementary schools now dysfunctional, while at the same time staring ahead in preparations for future innovations to improve existing practices. Ambidextrous practices have proven to be effective in similar cases to improve performance, facilitate organizational change process, and encourage innovations leading to strategic flexibility and operational efficiency (Gieske, Duijn & Van Buuren, 2020).

Active Schools’ Program - ASP

The Active Schools’ Program envisions a holistic approach to physical activity in public schools that encompasses managerial creativity, sustainability, and innovations, as well as operational effectiveness. This brings to the fore improvements in managerial practices and structures, personnel stakeholder participation and sporting infrastructure. The program proposes the need to establish a unit for physical activity to coordinate all the activities of the program.

In terms of personnel, there is an urgent need to train and groom experts in physical education, regenerative health, sport nutrition, sport psychology, and sports and exercise science, who will form the core of the needed capacity to implement the active schools’ program. All public schools must have a sustainable and cost-effective recreational or sporting park, with basic equipment such as sport disc cones, sport marker cones, agility ladders, sport ring ladders, step boards, exercise mats, medical balls, theraband exercisers, portable goal post, soccer balls, rackets and tennis balls etc. 

This program proposes a minimum of four hours of physical activity, twice a week, within the academic calendar. It is expected that when this program is implemented, it will influence human capital, movement and attitudinal behaviours, and physical health among school children. However, an action participatory research lens is needed to provide legitimacy to the proposal in this commentary.

Conclusion

A continual neglect of sport, physical activity and physical education programs at public schools may lead into narrowing talent identification, talent growth and development, which, in the long run, will feed into a deficit for the nation’s scout for sport participation and national competitions. The launch of Talent Identification Program by the Ghana Football Association reiterates the dire need for ambidextrous practices on sport, physical activity and physical education programs in the public basic schools.

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References

Azmi, F.T. (2019). Strategic Human Resource Management: Text and Cases. Cambridge University Press.

Daly-Smith, A., Hobbs, M., Morris, J.L., Defeyter, M.A., Resaland, G.K., McKenna, J. (2021). Moderate-toVigorous Physical Activity in Primary School Children: Inactive Lessons Are Dominated by Maths and English. Int. J. Environ. Res. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph 18030990

Daly-Smith, A., Quarmby, T., Archbold, V.,S., J.(2020). Using a multi-stakeholder experience-based design process to co-develop the Creating Active Schools Framework. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 17, 13 https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-020-0917-z

Gieske, H., Duijn, M., & Van Buuren, A. (2020). Ambidextrous practices in public service organizations: Innovation and optimization tensions in Dutch water authorities. Public Management Review. 22(3):341-63.

Okely, A.,D., Ghersi, D., Hesketh, K., D. (2017). A collaborative approach to adopting/adapting guidelines - The Australian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the early years (Birth to 5 years): an integration of physical activity, sedentary behavior, and sleep. BMC Public Health 17, 869. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-017-4867-6

Tremblay, M.S., Chaput, JP., Adamo, K.B. (2017). Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years (0–4 years): An Integration of Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour, and Sleep. BMC Public Health 17, 874. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-017-4859-6.

Vida, K., N., Luguterah, A., Sofo, S., Aryeetey, R., Badasu, M., Nartey, J., Assasie, E., Donkor, S., K., Dougblor, V., Williams, H., & Ocansey, R. (2018). Results from Ghana’s 2018 Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth. Journal of Physical Activity and Health. Retrieved from https://journals.humankinetics.com/view/journals/jpah/15/s2/article-pS366.xml

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About the authors

James Antwi PhD, FCMI is the Director of Academic Affairs and International Relations at West End University College, Accra, Ghana and a Fellow of Chartered Management Institute. James has worked as a consultant for the World Health Organisation, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank. His research interest is in health systems strengthening, human resource management, organizational development and public health policy.

Frank Appiah Kusi is an Assistant Lecturer in Sport Management at the School of Sports and Exercise Medicine of University of Health and Allied Sciences, Ho, Ghana. Appiah Kusi is also a Ph.D. Student at the Graduate School of Business and Management, Philippine Christian University, Manila where his research is focused on Sport Marketing and Sponsorship.

Tags

Country
Ghana
Region
Africa
Sport
All sports
Sustainable Development Goals
3 – Good health and well-being
Target Group
Children

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