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School chess gets big backing

Tsogo Sun newest SunCares corporate social investment initiative will see the company investing more than R10 million in a national school chess programme over three years.

‚”The selection of chess seemed a natural fit for us as part of both our strategy to develop sport as well as play a role in education. Chess is listed among the government’s top 16 priority sporting codes for inclusion at school level and the educational development through chess then aligns strongly with sport and education,‚” explains Shanda Paine, Group CSI manager, Tsogo Sun. ‚”All our initiatives are designed to comply with government’s strategy and objectives within the school system to ensure that we contribute to the overall development of the children we reach.‚”

Adds Paine, ‚”Chess also has the well-earned reputation of contributing significantly to different skillsets within a child’s development. There is much research to back up claims that chess improves concentration: it develops logical thinking, analytical skills, visualisation skills, decision-making skills, abstract thinking, planning skills, and memory, among others. It also is fairly cost-effective to introduce into schools, which means we can go much further afield with our chess programme and reach a greater number of young people. The game of Chess is a great leveller and can be played by all children, whatever their background and whatever their sporting or academic abilities. Of course, most important too is that chess is fun and appeals greatly to children. This means that they’re gaining skills in maths, science and life skills while they’re playing.‚”

‚”Moves for Life is a South African initiative which uses the sport of chess as a catalyst for education in the crucial areas of maths, science and literacy,‚” says Paine. Tsogo Sun Moves for Life, is a collaboration with Moves for Life, a national non-profit organisation (trust) that impacts children’s lives from the age of five through the structured implementation of chess. Moves for Life, of which President Jacob Zuma is a patron, has already been implemented at more than 70 schools nationwide. More than 50 000 school learners all over South Africa are effectively taught maths, science and life skills the Moves for Life way, with exceptional results. This integrated project, which encompasses not only education, but also sports and culture, leads to school learners developing a different attitude towards their school work.

Tsogo Sun has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Moves for Life that has cemented the relationship and responsibilities of both parties and has given Tsogo Sun naming rights to the programme and a seat on the board of the organisation.

Marisa van der Merwe, Founder and Manager of MiniChess and Trustee for Moves for Life notes, “It is often said that success is a combination of thoughts, words and actions, and that chess is a tool that helps equalize the playing field. I believe this is evident in Tsogo Sun’s strategy in engaging the youth of today. Together with Tsogo Sun Moves for Life and MiniChess this initiative will breed success for the students, teachers, schools and communities. It is a big step towards the reformation needed in South Africa.

‚””There is a dire need to increase the maths, science and literacy capabilities of children all over the country,‚”” says Vusi Dlamini, Group HR Director of Tsogo Sun, citing a survey that found that, for every 100 children that entered grade 1 in 1999 in South Africa, less than 40 wrote matric in 2011 and out of these 100 learners only one matriculated with maths on higher grade in 2011. ‚””The fact is that to sustain South Africa’s global competitiveness, this figure should be at 25 out of 100,‚”” says Dlamini.

‚””In light of this, Tsogo Sun Moves for Life is an important programme for the development of the country and we are extremely proud to have been the catalyst that has brought leading companies such as BHP Billiton and Sasol to collaborate alongside us to enable Moves for Life to extend its reach nationwide.‚””

‚””We believe that collaborations between corporates, government, SMMEs, and even individual trailblazers offer the perfect opportunity to pool resources with like-minded organisations and work together for collective change. With SunCares we are constantly striving to harness the power of collaborations in the interests of doing more and we would welcome involvement by other organisations or individuals in this chess initiative to see it having the widest reach possible,‚”” notes Dlamini.

The Tsogo Sun Moves for Life programme is divided into three key elements, namely MiniChess (Grade R to Grade 3), MasterMoves (nine years and older), and teacher training.

The first phase of the Tsogo Sun Moves for Life programme entails teacher training and the introduction of MiniChess currently in three areas Gauteng, in 26 schools, funded by Montecasino, Gold Reef City and Silverstar Casino: in two schools in Emalahleni (Witbank) in Mpumalanga, facilitated by The Ridge Casino: in two schools in Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal supported by Blackrock Casino: and in six schools in Mosselbay in the Western Cape, funded by Garden Route Casino. Altogether more than 400 teachers have been trained as facilitators in the programme and by the end of the year about 15 000 children will be on their way to grasping the wonders of chess.

Plans are in place to extend the programme to schools in Welkom in the Free State, supported by Goldfields Casino, and other areas early in 2014.

To substantiate the value of the programme, a collaboration has been entered into with the University of Johannesburg to conduct impact studies on the learners, the teachers, the school and the communities as a result of the introduction of chess. Baseline studies are currently underway and long-term impact studies will be carried out at regular intervals for the next three years to monitor and evaluate the value of chess in education.

‚””We believe that Tsogo Sun Moves for Life will see children improving their comprehension of maths, science and literacy and that it will have a beneficial impact on their development in their school years, laying a strong foundation that can be built on throughout their lives,‚”” states Dlamini. ‚””We are privileged indeed to be in a position to make this potentially significant contribution into children’s lives.‚””

Mickey Scheepers, Trustee of Tsogo Sun Moves for Life concludes, ‚””The Tsogo Sun Moves for Life initiative is fuelled by people who believe that every South African child has the potential to become a world-class citizen. The partnership with Tsogo Sun is very beneficial as it will provide a massive boost to the sustainability of the initiative as well as lend credibility to one of the most successful educational interventions in South Africa. Tsogo Sun Moves for Life is both fortunate and proud to be associated with Tsogo Sun. From the start it was clear to us that the Tsogo Sun teams’ heart is in the right place. They share our beliefs and it is obvious that their involvement goes far beyond pure social responsibility.‚””

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