Friday, March 24, 2017

Which professionals for sport (2)?: The case of developing countrie

Which professionals for sports (2)?: The case of developing countries

Dr. Gilles Klein, 24 March 2017


In September 2007, I was on a mission in Benin, notably to meet the Minister of Youth and Sports and to negotiate the membership of that West African country to our intergovernmental organization. Naturally, we talked about the lack of sports infrastructures, whether for youth or for the elite. The principle of building sports centers by the World Sports Alliance seduced a lot, even if it was not without intrigue. The Director of the national institute of sports showed us schools, in Porto Novo and also in the surrounding countryside. We could measure the staff’s expectations, and naturally those of the young people toward those announcing the building of the facilities.

On the sand

In an Ajara secondary school, I remember this 15 years old, who, barefoot, jumped 1 meter 85 centimeters using a “coastal style” landing on the sand. It took me back to my high jump learning, referred to in the previous blog episode. Oh! If he had a synthetic reception pit, or simply a tarpaulin, he could become the champion of his country. Then, I remembered the creativity of my old teacher, who thanks to a simple piece of tissue allowed us to invent our own techniques. Unfortunately, none of us had the physical capabilities of this young Beninese.


More than sports diplomacy, teaching was the main reason for my presence in Benin. The national institute of sports and physical education created its first masters in sports sciences. Canadian, Belgian and French teachers were invited to give physiology, psychology, sociology or history lessons applied to sport. The conferences of French-speaking ministers of education and higher education (CONFEMEN) and youth and sports (CONFEJES), associated to the « Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie” (OIF) provided budgets for students and teachers. Alassane, Bangoura, Moussa and Lahamiss came from Mali, Brigitte and Patrice from Benin.


I had a divided opinion on the nature of degrees needed in the sports education area in Africa, to teach, coach, maintain or manage. I guessed about the implementation of masters in sports sciences in Africa. Most of the African students preparing for sports jobs were taught at the Bachelor level. To my mind, this level was sufficient for obtaining a diploma of sports instructor. By contrast, I found lots of interest in the creation of the Bachelor-Master-PhD pathway in sports sciences in Africa.


On this continent or elsewhere, regarding careers in education, a Bachelors degree is not of a sufficient level to educate young people to build healthy, active and civic lifestyles, living a range of bodily experiences in a diversity of physical and sports activities. More generally, masters and PhDs were needed to train the staff of national sports systems in Africa. Bachelor, Master, Ph.D.? What is called, in Europe, the Bologna process, aimed to reform higher education in European countries to help it to become more attractive compared to the United States. The initiative was showing at least two points of interest: universities’ alignment on the architecture of studies in three cycles (3, 5 and 8 years); the teachers and students’ mobility. Interests that warranted the association with African universities.


The reform and its extension to the African universities also generated doubts. As early as 2003, the influence of the Bologna architecture crossed the European borders to concern other regions of the world. It also reached the African universities that needed to implement major reforms. The Bologna objectives were promoted as explicit objectives of cooperation established with the third countries, notably the African ones. If in Europe the reform generated lasting controversies, most of the African countries took measures to adopt it or switch quickly to a phase of implementation.


Was this pure coincidence or a climbing of agendas? In Benin, after my lessons, I finished writing the chapter related to the tools needed to reduce the gap between the demands of the European market of sports work and the training offers, which is to be published in the collective book mentioned in the previous episode. Another chapter of this collective book did not miss hitting the decision of the Higher education African ministers.


In their chapter, dedicated to « Higher Education and Employability in Sport », my colleagues Jean Camy and Alberto Madella looked at the numbers on the relationship between European students and the annual flow of available sports jobs. At the Bachelor, Master and Ph.D. levels: 75.000 graduates against 30.000 jobs. Post-secondary level: 115.000 against 100.000 jobs, thus the ratio was number was not adapted. Lower-secondary level: 150.000 graduates against 70.000 jobs, the graduates were in surplus.


From this European perspective in respect of employability, let us remember: A high level of training is not the best way to gain access to sports employment. The imbalance between the flow of students and the number of jobs, particularly for the Bachelor, Master and Ph.D. levels, corresponding to university, leads to a serious risk of the de-skilling of graduates and demonstrates the diploma maladjustment.


In Africa, to create a Bachelor-Master-PhD course in sports sciences was perhaps then not appropriate. I already pointed out this risk in the third article of this blog: Sport and the floating coffins of the Mediterranean: what jobs for the unemployed graduates of Africa? In Africa, more than in Europe, the phenomenon of unemployment and under-employment of graduates poses the problem of the inadequacy between supply and demand, between the training proposed by the universities and the needs of the job market. In 2014, Dramane Haïdara confirmed the risk, calling on the African governments to tackle, without delay, the priority work area of education to professionalize higher education and orient the students to technical training preparing them less for a salaried career than for entrepreneurial activities.


Such as Dramane Haïdara, the conference of the French-speaking ministers of sports (CONFEJES) adopts a realistic strategy. The conference does not just support lengthy studies in the African institutes of youth and sports. It also encourages the development of technical and shorter streams. The approach is explained in the “Advocacy related to the supply of qualifying short term training in the national institutes of youth and sports”. Three context elements are considered mainly within the African area: the diversification of jobs in the Youth, sports and leisure sectors, the need to recognize the jobs of the informal sector, the ministers’ will to struggle against young people’s poverty in compliance with the MDGs.


The reasoning is exposed thus: “it appears to us very useful to take advantage from the development of short-term training supply that would be addressed to new young customers looking for jobs and would lead to jobs learning. Thanks to original, qualifying, short and well-targeted training, the training institute could open its doors to customers who are usually excluded: young people with low or no formal schooling, as well as former athletes”.


Long training, short training, the CONFEJES have done a lot of work for mid-level training. I think about the books dedicated to the professions of youth, sports, and leisure. I think also of the fact sheets describing precisely the objectives and activities of the professions which are related to the leisure, youth, and sports areas.


Let us mention some examples in the youth area: physical activities instructor; sports instructor, electronic games instructor, socio-cultural instructor; shows promoter; beach attendant; group tour guide; receptionist; welcome agent.


Let us mention some examples in the sports area: sports instructor; fitness instructor, sports coach; sports events promoter; competition officer; lifeguard; stadium steward or sports mediator; bodyguard; sports equipment manufacturer; maintenance agent.


On 27th March 2008, in Nouakchott – Mauritania, in the framework of the meeting of the CONFEJES Bureau, we signed a cooperation convention with this IGO. I would like to greet here, H.E. Mr. Youssouf Fall and the then Director for Youth, now become in turn Secretary-General H.E. Mr. Ali Harouna Bourama. Beyond this convention, both gave us the first chance in the French-speaking world, particularly in Africa. To tell the truth, only the implementation of this signed convention will be the label of a clear recognition of their support. Soon, we will dedicate an article to all these people, who often in the shadows, helped us to build this intergovernmental organization. It is thanks to these women and men, in the shadows or the light, that we were able to build an original sports diplomacy.

Next: 31 March 2017 – Sport diplomacy issues (1): No history!.

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