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Kenyan rugby lads rub shoulders with international teams

GENERATION NEXT
By Rebecca Gichana | October 13th 2013

By Rebecca Gichana

Nairobi, Kenya: Rugby in Kenya has been at it best in the recent months, with the national sevens team gong to the semi finals of the World Cup and the Shujaa team winning the recently concluded Safaricom Sevens Tournament.

 The Shamas Rugby Foundation (SRF), a youth rugby project based at the Kenya Harlequins grounds in Nairobi is striving to give over 200 boys and girls from Mathare and Kibera slums a foothold in life.

The foundation is not only giving the children aged between five to 15 years an opportunity to play the game, but also to develop their sense of belonging to a community.

Recently, the young team had a ten-day tour of Cape Town, South Africa, which culminated with the group watching the Springboks/Argentina match, a far-fetched dream that was made a reality. Since businessman Azim Deen revived the foundation, formerly run by the Kenya Rugby Union (KRU), last year, the children have had the opportunity to develop holistically.

“Interaction with class teachers and parents have greatly enhanced their self-esteem, sense of teamwork and responsibility, with a marked improvement in overall performance in school. There has been positive feedback from one of the school headmasters who noticed that some of the boys who play rugby have started concentrating more in lessons and show confidence,” says Azim, who fell in love with rugby during his boarding days at a school in Scotland.

SRF has funded eight local coaches, who come from the slums and play rugby for teams in Nairobi, to train the children.

The coaches work with the local primary schools and do weekly training sessions. Every month, the project holds a sevens tournament for the slum children and invites some of the local rugby clubs to bring their teams along.

 ‘We are certain that one day, a child from this project will represent the national team. Through the values of rugby, we motivate these children to be role models in their communities, to work hard at school and open up options to study at university,” says Coach Eric Situma.

SRF goals are set over a six-year period. Next year, it will expand clinics to areas such as Kawangware and Kangemi where it will introduce the game in at least 30 government schools in Nairobi, with the help of the Sports ministry and KRU. In 2015, the project will strive to expand the primary school programme to at least 100 government schools within Nairobi.

“We will fund and implement — together with the government, KRU and hopefully the International Rugby Board — a compulsory rugby programme for all schools in Nairobi in our fourth year in operation,” says Nadim.

SRF will later implement the primary school programme countrywide and organise annual competitions.

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