Friday, July 6, 2012

PC in a Global Context - an African Assessment

Editor's note: we are delighted to submit this "guest" blog post from Mopati Morake, a citizen of Botswana who recently graduated from Williams College, and who is currently teaching at the African Leadership Academy in South Africa. Mopati wrote this compelling account of a recent visit to Senegal, in which he considers the great need for sports-based youth-development programs - such as Project Coach - in a developing continent.

Project Coach in Africa: 
Youth, Sport and Africa’s Development

By Mopati Morake (see the end of the blog for a more complete bio)

July 4, 2012

I have spent the last year thinking a lot about Africa’s future. I teach at African Leadership Academy in South Africa, an institution whose mission is to directly contribute to long lasting peace and prosperity in Africa by developing and connecting its future leaders to resources that harness their potential. In thinking about Africa’s development, two things come to mind. One is a statistic that never ceases to amaze me. It is the fact that approximately 70% of Africa is under the age of 30. Further, about one-fifth of Africans are between 15-24 years of age. This is staggering to me - basically everyone is young! Of course, the reasons for this population imbalance are manifold, but atop that list is the high birthrate. In Mali, the fertility rate is 6.3 children per woman. Given these facts, youth empowerment shouldn’t just be a political buzzword. It should be a real priority in the development agenda.

The second thing that I think of is how to create and develop educational institutions that really can cultivate all the talents that young people have to offer. We all have multiple intelligences, and different areas of skill. Yet, too often, our education system focuses on developing one set of skills in the classroom, and testing it by way of a massive, comprehensive final exam. But some talents just can’t be assessed in a two-and-a half hour exam paper. Some of our innate ability needs to be drawn out in other more creative and engaging ways.

This is where I see space for the Project Coach (PC) model on the continent. What excites me about PC is that it finds a way to combine what young Africans are particularly passionate about – sports – with the tools to empower, and transform them into effective leaders – something the continent desperately needs.

I am writing this from the small coastal village of Joal, in Senegal. Schools are on holiday, and as I sat in back of a taxi this evening, taking in the scenes just before sunset, I saw children playing soccer on virtually every corner. This is obviously because its fun, but one must also consider the fact that during school holidays, there are very few structured activities for students do participate in. There aren’t many summer camps. For close to three months, most Senegalese students simply don’t do much. In Botswana (where I come from), there is virtually nothing for students to do when school is out.

So why not transform the school holiday from a period of idleness into one of enriching, empowering, and fun programming? Why not build an educational institution, like Project Coach, that would give teenagers practice in leadership? Young people would move from being bored at home to adding value to their communities by running youth sports leagues. They would be given real responsibility. They would learn to lead teams, set goals, and communicate clearly. And they would serve as mentors to young children, and thus become community organizers at age 16.

What I particularly like about this idea is the cascading of leadership skills. By building Project Coach, we would engage a team of people, perhaps university students, to train and mentor teenagers. These teen coaches would then pass down good habits and lessons to their young players.

In a time when kids are otherwise just hanging around, Project Coach could help create an ecosystem of young leaders who take initiative and create opportunities for others in their communities. What Africa needs is proactive young people who take action and make positive changes in their communities, instead of simply waiting for the government to do all the work. Coming from a country where the unemployment rate exceeds 20%, this mentality is essential.

As Nigerian Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi recently said, “development really just means creating opportunities for people.” Through Project Coach, young people would actually be doing development work, and having fun along the way. 


Mopati hails from Botswana, but as child he lived in Sweden and the United States before moving to Hong Kong to study at Li Po Chun United World College.
He is a proud alumnus of Williams College, where he graduated with a BA in Political Science, concentrating in International Relations. While at Williams, Mopati was deeply involved in community building, and served as a Junior Advisor to mentor first year students. He was guided by the belief the relationships, conversations, and interactions one has with a diverse community provide a tremendous and invaluable opportunity for learning and growth.
He pursued his passion for equity in education with summer internships at the Maru-a-Pula School in Botswana and Ditshwanelo – the Botswana Center for Human Rights. In 2010, he was granted a travel and research fellowship to study education equity and the politics of school reform in France. He also played ultimate frisbee for Williams, and sang in the concert choir. At his graduation, Mopati was awarded the Francis Sessions Hutchins Class of 1900 Memorial Fellowship Prize, given to a senior who shows promise of becoming a “useful, worthy and loveable citizen.”
Mopati brings a passion for social change through education to ALA. He teaches English, is a member of the residential faculty team as hall master of one of the boys’ halls, lovingly nicknamed “The Office.” He also coaches basketball and supervises the Emthonjeni Community Service Project site.
Here's the link to African Leadership Academy -

No comments:

Post a Comment