By Franklin N. Kwenah
In an effort to intersperse education with sports through the provision of space for students to showcase their talent, an inter-high school sports tournament was launched last Friday in Gbarnga, Bong County.
The league is organized by the National High School Sports Association under the theme, ‘promoting peace and youth development through sport.’ Teams are awarded a giant-size trophy, medals, cash prizes and an international travel opportunity for the winning school.
The league will take place in all fifteen counties of Liberia, with over 200 high schools participating.
Providing an overview of the program, Mr. Dionysius Sebwe, the National Coordinator of the National High School Sports, said the program is an initiative geared towards boosting school enrollment by using sport as a platform in which young boys and girls can develop their potentials as they prepare for a brighter future.
“This tournament is to motivate young people who are not in school to return to school and to help those who are already in school to remain there in their educational pursuit,” he said.
He noted that the tournament, which is being implemented by a team of sports enthusiasts, is to provide better opportunities for Liberian youths and also to reduce illiteracy.
“Youths are not only fascinated by sports but also see it as a clear pathway to success,” he added.
Coordinator Sebwe explained that since the inception of the program in April 2017, it has contributed to school facility development, the lives of students, and has helped to promote an increase in school enrollment.
He informed the audience that the 2017 Winner — World Wide Mission School Football team — received a cash price of US$700.
“All 200 high schools that participated in the first edition of the nationwide high school tournament experienced a degree of increment in their enrollment.
“Before last year’s tournament, World Wide Mission had an enrollment of approximately 250 students but now has about 500 students. World Wide Mission’s school enrollment has risen to about fifty percent from last year to this year,” Sebwe said.
He stressed that the country has been divided into five regions; region one, comprising of Lofa, Ground Cape Mount, Gbarpolu and Bomi counties; region two, which includes Bong, Nimba, Margibi, and Bassa counties, while Montserrado is in region three.
Region four has River Cess, Sinoe, and Grand Kru counties, while Grand Gedeh, River Gee, and Maryland counties are in region five. It is expected that one school will qualify to represent a county in the regional round, while the winner from the region will go to Monrovia as finalist.
He noted that Gbarnga, Bong County, will be used for the regional qualification for region two.
He further said the program this year will have a lot of scholarship opportunities both local and overseas. Sebwe noted that the winner, particularly in football in this year’s competition, will be awarded a one-week traveling opportunity to Ghana, Ivory Coast, or Sierra Leone, along with a US$25,000 cash prize, a trophy, and other awards.
He said the Most Valuable Player that will emerge from the tournament will receive a scholarship to any school or university of his choice, and clarified that there will be no international travel opportunity for kickball because it is played only in Liberia.
He expressed appreciation to Orange Liberia, LBDI (Liberian Bank for Development and Investment), Carter Center, APM Terminals, the LRA (Liberia Revenue Authority), other sponsors as well as all those whose efforts, both financial and kind, have supported the program.
Officially launching the tournament for this year on behalf of Youth & Sports Minister D. Zeogar Wilson, Deputy Minister G. Andy Quamie called for the full participation of all schools to promote peace and ensure their development through sports as the theme suggests.
“Do not go to Monrovia to get players but use your local talent, challenge yourselves; do not depend on talent from outside your school,” Minister Quamie stressed.
He noted that the program is also an opportunity to scout players for the U-20 and U-17 national football teams.
He however pledged the ministry’s commitment to the development of youth through educational and sporting activities throughout the country.
The Media Relations Manager for Orange Liberia Miss Noosevett Weah said the tournament should not just be seen as a sports contest. Rather, it should be seen as an opportunity towards self-advancement through education.
Miss Weah assured her company’s continued support to sports and education in Liberia; she encouraged the participating students to study and do well.