Why Aregbesola invited Cubans to train school children ….As Osun plans 21st year anniversaryAfrica, Headlines, Osun, State News Friday, August 17th, 2012
AS a radical activist concerned with the dialectical struggle for the creation of a new society, Governor Rauf Aregbesola was convinced that physical well-being was central to social reformation and the building of an egalitarian society. Therefore, when Governor Bola Ige introduced the Young Pioneers programme in the Second Republic (1979-1983) which involved the training of school children in gymnastic exercises designed to develop physical health and vigour (calisthenics), Aregbesola, who was then in his early twenties, was thrilled about the initiative.
At the time that Bola Ige introduced the calisthenics display, which thrilled many in the old Oyo State and intrigued many Nigerians, Aregbesola was getting ready to finish his Mechanical Engineering training at The Polytechnic, Ibadan. The calisthenics display which engaged thousands of school children in Oyo State was truncated by the termination of the Second Republic by the military in 1983.
Recalled Aregbesola, “When Chief Bola Ige, as governor of the old Oyo State, introduced it in the Second Republic, it was to the delight of all and well applauded all over the country. Regrettably, it was discontinued as a result of military incursion into government.”
For many years, Aregbesola dreamed of a society in which the recognition of the symbiosis of mental and physical health would become the
norm, rather than the exception. For him, health is not just wealth, indeed, health is life. Aregbesola was therefore sad that military rule ended one of the most innovative programmes of engaging children and youths and training their body and minds. This was more so because of his conviction that gymnastic exercises meant to develop the physical health of children and youths are directly linked to any
worthwhile agenda for the development and expansion of a modern educational project that was concerned with generating social good.
Against the backdrop of the Six-Point Integral Action by his government which included the Restoration of Healthy Living, Governor Aregbesola invited two Cuban experts in calisthenics to the State of Osun to teach local trainers and school children in the famous art.
Francis Rodriques and Raiza Guerra, the two Cuban experts, arrived in the State of Osun in March of this year to start the elaborate process of training the trainers as well as the students.
Stated Governor Aregbesola at the official flag-off ceremony of the Osun School Calisthenics Programme in April. “Because our administration places high premium on physical education and we regard formal education as incomplete without its physical development component, we have therefore accorded it the required priority in the reorganisation of education.”
As a form of exercise, calisthenics consists of often rhythmical movements which are intended to increase body strength and flexibility with movements including bending, jumping, swinging, twisting and kicking. Health experts all over the world agree that when “performed vigorously and with variety”, calisthenics “can benefit both muscular and cardiovascular fitness, in addition to improving psychomotor skills such as balance, agility and coordination.”
The state governor is persuaded that aiding the muscular and cardiovascular fitness of the younger generation in his state is crucial, particularly given that, in the process, the children can also produce spectacular performances and visual entertainment at important events in the state.
At the start of the programme, which began with the training of 8, 000 students by 60 local trainers, Mr. Aregbesola announced that “The calisthenics programme is not only an out-of-school sports activity but a lifestyle change project for building a new generation of students who are physically robust, mentally sound and socially well-adjusted. The importance of physical education in the development of a healthy and wholesome human personality has long been realised.”
The governor went back to history to locate the significance and benefits of the programme. “In ancient Greece,” said the State of Osun helmsman, “the human body was regarded as a temple that provided a sacred abode for the human mind and soul. They therefore believed that gymnastics and calisthenics were necessary to keep this temple-abode healthy and functional. To underscore the wisdom in this ancient conception of structured physical exercise, gymnastics and calisthenics were eventually replaced by organised sporting activities.”
The governor explained further that the programme would take aw-ay the students from potentially harmful out-of-school activities and provide a platform for fraternization and positive interaction among the students. Speaking in April at a dinner party at the Government House organized to honour the Cuban calisthenics experts, Francis Rodriques and Raiza Guerra, the governor said that the programme was aimed at promoting unity, harmony and team spirit.
In explaining why he invited the Cubans to undertake the training, the governor said that Cuba has contributed a lot to the freedom of
Africans and the maintenance of the racial pride of Africans and their health.
Nigerian Tribune was recently informed that all is now set for the first public display of the skills acquired by the Junior Secondary School (JSS) 1 and 2 students who constitute the first phase of the programme. This will be on August 27, when the state will celebrate the 21st anniversary of its creation. Our sources promised that the display by the students would be “spectacular”. They added that this programme would likely be copied by other states in the federation.
According to Honourable Mudashir Toogun, the Assistant Chief of Staff to the Governor, and Chairman, Osun Calisthenics Implementation Committee, the first phase of the programme involved the training of 5,000 school kids in Osogbo and its environs. The students were selected from 48 schools. Another 3,000 students spread throughout the other eight federal constituencies in the state were also subsequently trained by the Cubans and the local trainers.
According to Governor Aregbesola, “Calisthenics has been known to have the substance of unity, harmony, balance and team work and thus presents one of the best engagements for teaching young pupils the cooperative spirit in a simple, delightful and interesting way.” Mr. Aregbesola added at the start of the calisthenics programme that “The physical aspect of the broad extracurricular activities to be introduced are consistent with our Walk-to-Live and promotion of Healthy Living Action Plan, while the social and guidance aspects are true
to our philosophy and progressive ideals for social development.”
The Governor himself has been an enthusiastic participant in the Walk-to-Live programme in the state. He is therefore very enthusiastic about the programme with its potential health, social, economic, and educational benefits for the children and youths of the state. The governor is particularly happy that this programme also represents a continuation of the great tradition of holistic socio-economic and political agenda of the progressive political camp in Nigerian politics.
Stated Aregbesola, “By reintroducing it, we are just continuing the worthy legacy of the great icon (Bola Ige). We are not discouraged, however, by the retrogressive antics of naysayers who are imputing the wrong motives for this noble idea. They have wrongly accused us of using this programme as a cover for giving military training to the youth as a prelude to seceding from Nigeria.” Asked the governor, “How could any sane person allege that teaching young people to hold flags and bend their bodies amount to military training? We are not dissuaded. We are rather pressing on aggressively in our education reform programme.”
On 27 August, as the State of Osun celebrates the 21st anniversary of its creation, the children of the state are expected to display their skills, and through this, emphasize their physical well-being and the discipline that has become the hallmark of their education in the new era in the state.
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