ENARD High Level Performance in Sport: Argentinian Ambassador's briefing

Sports, Arts and Culture

13 June 2012
Chairperson: Mr M Mdakane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Argentinian Ambassador and an official from the Secretariat of Sport at the Argentinian Embassy briefed the Committee on the forthcoming trip to Argentina, noting that visits had been arranged to public schools, the university Sports Faculty, visits to NGOs focusing on youngsters and  visit to the Ente Nacional e Alto Rendimiento Deportivo (ENARD), a National Sports Agency for High Level Performance. The Argentinian representatives emphasised that Physical Education (PE) was a compulsory and free subject, on which all pupils were marked as part of their yearly assessment, as Argentina was convinced of the need not only to get all pupils engaging in sporting activities, under the mentorship of teachers with four years or more of specific training in sport, but also to encourage clubs to partner with other bodies, so that everyone, whether or not they could attract private sponsorship, would have equal sporting training opportunities. The running of the school sports system, under the Ministry of Education was described, and t was noted that in addition to this the National Secretariat of Sport operated as part of the social development branch of government. In 2010, the ENARD was created as a non-profit and non-state organisations, run by the National Olympic Committee and the Argentina Secretariat for Sport. This Agency had its own building and own staff, and its budget was derived from a 1% levy on monthly prepaid cellphone subscriptions, which amounted to a considerable amount, matched with another equal amount to build it up to the current budget of US$35 million. He explained the structure, vision and mission of ENARD, noting that its main aim was to cooperate in the implementation and development of policies for high level and sporting development mostly through financing, but also giving assistance with medical assurance and assistance. Its General Assembly approved plans annually and it had a fiscal committee and disciplinary body, and all board decisions were taken on the basis of consensus. Fourth-year students were involved in providing different activities, in addition to the professional coaches, and it was supported by the institutes of sports, local and provincial government. There was also great emphasis on community integration and the role of sport in social development. Argentina was trying to get sports included as a national right in its Constitution. Whilst sports could not solve all problems, it certainly went a long way. The Ambassador emphasised that Argentina shared many of South Africa’s concerns, including the township structures, the need for development and lack of sport (in the past) in public education. The Ambassador also emphasised that discipline and structure needed to be instilled at an early age, otherwise South African teams would not excel. He was concerned that local people tended to support overseas, and not local teams. The Chairperson agreed, the State had to step in and emphasise the importance of education and sport. He believed that valuable lessons would be learnt from the trip, which would assist Members to formulate plans to implement something similar to what Argentina had achieved.

Meeting report

ENARD: National Sports Agency for High Level Performance, Argentina
Mr Raul Araya, Secretariat for Sport, Argentinian Embassy, explained the programme for the Chairperson’s forthcoming visit to Argentina, proposing a possible agenda, the schedule of free days, and the visit suggested to a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that focused on youngsters and provided activities for them. This entity comprised about 20 000 members. It dealt with all sport except rugby or soccer. 

Mr Araya noted that the Chairperson and accompanying Members would attend a class for physical education in a primary school in Argentina, and would also visit the sports campus of the University of Buenos Aires. He emphasised that this was not just a university sport campus, but was also used to benefit  high school children, as there were many sport activities being undertaken, with fields either being rented or used free of charge. He explained that this was because many high schools offered physical education as a subject, but did not have enough physical room to perform or practice the sport. There were many arrangements between private clubs and the schools. The visit would also encompass a visit to a public school.

Ambassador Carlos Sersale added that there was wide divergence across the schools as to what they could offer. Physical education was run by professionals who studied in the country, and it was a compulsory and free subject, in both primary and secondary schools.

Mr Araya stated that since 1938, Argentina had a National Directorate of Physical Education, as a branch within the Ministry of Education. He spoke of the budget, and how this led to the decision to offer free activities. Physical Education was seen as a compulsory subject at school, even though it was not an all-week activity, and normally students had about three hours per week set aside for activities, on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The students were assigned marks for their performance in Physical Education (PE) , and he reiterated that it was run by professional PE teachers, who were trained for four years at tertiary level. Clubs were widely used in Argentina but not all children had the chance to register at private clubs, so the emphasis was rather on schools to develop their physical abilities. Sometimes recruiters would visit the  high schools and view children in their classes, with a view to giving them future opportunities. 

Mr Araya then expanded on the National Secretariat of Sport, within the Social Development branch of government. A new body had also been created in 2010 – Ente Nacional e Alto Rendimiento Deportivo (ENARD) –to support high level performance in physical education. This was a non-profit, non-state organisation, and was run together by the National Olympic Committee and the Argentina Secretariat for Sport. This Agency had its own building and own staff. The budget was derived from 1% of monthly prepaid subscriptions on mobile phones. He explained that Argentina, like many other places, had more mobile phones than inhabitants, with about 30 million handsets. Another 1% was added to the subscription charges, which comprised the budget of US$35 million for the international high level development. ENARD had a President, elected on a four-year cycle, and the current President of ENARD was also the President of the National Olympic Committee, whose term would run to December.

He spoke of the mission and vision of ENARD. Its main aim was to cooperate in the implementation and development of policies for high level and sporting development. Most of this was done by financing activities only through national sport federations.  Money grants were also provided for sportsmen and coaches to help with activities.  The budget was put to the hiring and payment of specialists in sport. This would include the national coaches of the national federations, and the focus would be on training those who could not get private sponsorship elsewhere. He noted that in South Africa, as well as many other countries, soccer and rugby received most of the sponsorship, and pointed out that there were many other sports that were overlooked, and who might not even be trying to find sponsorship. The budget was also spent on participation in international and national competitions such Pan-American games and South-American games. Each national federation had identified their best sportsmen and sportswomen and these people were provided with medical insurance and medical assistance, as were the coaches.

ENARD had an internal body, the General Assembly, which had to approve of annual plans. There was also a Fiscal Committee, and a Disciplinary body. The structure was quite simple, and comprised of a board of directors from the National Secretariat for Sport and the Argentine Olympic Committee. All decisions required total consensus, and any board decisions required government’s full acceptance.

The National Secretariat had the chance to focus on the most relevant issue, which was providing equal opportunities for all citizens in sport activities. Prior to the formation of this Agency, there had been pressure from the media and sports federations to grant money for international competitions, but there were competing priorities also of matters such as healthcare. The formation of the new Agency meant that the  National Secretariat for Sport had a better budget, could impose and develop a new programme for sport as well as grant opportunities to different focus groups, such as the poor, the disabled and youth leagues. Around 1 000 fourth-year students, who were aged 21 to 22, provided activities to the different focus groups. This was supported by the institutes of sports, local and provincial government, which provided around 60 000 people with the chance to be involved in sport activities.

This was a major pilot project and he emphasised that it had a large budget. Some of the activities would be shown to the Chairperson during the forthcoming visit. The project demanded grounds and better facilities, although he mentioned that the weather was similar to South Africa, so outdoor activities could still take place in winter. Institutes would be provided with equipment and nets. After this programme, players moved to the National Evita Games, and joint efforts at  national, provincial and local level resulted in much better utilisation of budgets.

Discussion
The Chairperson felt that government sponsorship was most helpful, specifically for the unrecognised sports like boxing as it offered a chance to those who could not get private sponsorship. He asked for more details on the National Federation of Schools.

Mr Araya said these schools were run by the state, and could be private, public or free. They were run by the Ministry of Education, and each school had its own teachers of PE. Outside of this, a Spider Project provided more training for PE teachers, and they were paid by the National Secretariat of Sports. Federations constantly requested more money, saying that it was never enough, but had to recognise that what had been provided was of particular assistance. Great emphasis was also placed on local work, and community integration. Sport was seen as a tool for social developments, and the state must provide equal opportunities to all, regardless of their social, economical or religious situations. The country was still trying to get sports recognised as a right in its national Constitution. He admitted that whilst sports could not solve all problems, it would certainly serve as one tool for the development of a child. Emphasis on sport also led to other emphases on the family situation, eating habits and nutrition.

Ambassador Sersale agreed that sports formed a link between people, and outlined the state’s role. He spoke of the bilateral agreements in sports, and emphasised a recent visit by the South African Football Association Under-17 team to Argentina. He said, however, that sports was still lacking in the South African public education system and said South Africa would never have a good soccer team if PE was not introduced early on at school. PE was still lacking in the townships and more structures were needed, particularly prior to ages 15 and 16, because the discipline and structure for the game had to be instilled at a very early stage. Many South African rugby and cricket teams were successful because of private education that promoted these sports, or because public schools were situated close to others who did promote the sport.

Having said that, he acknowledged that the Argentinian system was not perfect and this country shared many challenges with South Africa, including challenges around townships. He suggested that pilot projects should be started in townships, where PE should be made compulsory. He thought South African children were talented, but lacked guidance. There was a need to find ways to work together to create a positive impact on development of young people, creating a social impact too.

The Chairperson said that one of the problems was that teams lacked structure, they had no figureheads, and it did not assist that there was no national plan.  He felt that there was not sufficient development of those identified with potential and they ended up staying in small towns. He would discuss the idea of pilot projects in the townships with the Minister. Comparatively speaking, South Africa was not as poor as many other countries who produced better players. After 1996, sport had been used as one of the tools to break down apartheid systems, but people assumed it would develop by itself, and he was not sure what happened. Structure was vital. Social sports and the factors that contribute to it were highlighted, and he urged that people should engage in sport, instead of moving towards drugs and other activities. He agreed that some teams would never get sponsorship because they had not been fully developed.

Ambassador Sersale said that he had been amazed by South Africans saying that their favourite teams were those from Europe. He wondered who was supporting the local teams. 

The Chairperson agreed.

Ambassador Sersale emphasised that physical training as well as physical education was needed, and also emphasised that professionals should be put in place.

The Chairperson said his view was that the Committee should debate how to set up these projects. The relationship between Argentina and South Africa was growing, and this trip would help the Committee to consider its own projects and report back to the Minster about implementation. Young people needed leisure activities, and he noted that many children, in his day, had joined school for the activities but ended up enjoying the education. The State had to step in and emphasise the importance of education. On their return from the trip, the Members would focus on what had to be done in South Africa. High unemployment rates also meant that many young people were not becoming as actively involved in sport as they should. He stressed that sport was critical and young people had to get involved in it.

Mr Araya said that children lost focus in classrooms, but believed that physical activity would help to create a better balance in the schools, as well as giving children something to do after school hours. Argentina faced similar problems of townships and unemployment and sport would help youngsters prepare better for the difficult world in which they lived.

Mr Araya stated that social cohesion was one of the key issues. Critical to this was the development of human resources to develop activities. Teachers were well prepared in Argentina, having undergone four years’ training, with another two years to become a coach. They graduated with sufficient knowledge to enable them to provide and drive activities. 

Ambassador Sersale added that the contact with educators in PE made a big difference to the way that children related to adults, and it also made them stronger.

The Chairperson commented that there seemed to be no reason why South Africa should not implement what Argentina was doing and he was sure that a lot would be learned from the trip.

The meeting was adjourned.

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