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Charles Nyambe: "Every school, every sports club, and every community centre should offer the benefits of inclusive sports" in Seychelles

Victoria, Seychelles | December 17, 2023, Sunday @ 10:26 in Editorial » THE INTERVIEW | By: Sharon Ernesta | Views: 13009
Charles Nyambe: "Every school, every sports club, and every community centre should offer the benefits of inclusive sports" in Seychelles

Charles Nyambe is the regional president and managing director of Special Olympics Africa (Ministry of Youth, Sports and Family)

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(Seychelles News Agency) - December 4, 2023, was a historic day for the island nation of Seychelles as it joined a global movement to advance inclusive education through sports for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

This was through signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) by the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Family and the Special Olympics of Seychelles, which ratified a commitment to advancing inclusive education through sports programming.

Seychelles became the second among eight African countries expected to sign similar agreements and become members of the Special Olympics Global Leadership Coalition for Inclusion.  The first country to join the coalition was Ghana.

Charles Nyambe is the regional president and managing director of Special Olympics Africa, who oversees programme operations of 41 countries on the continent and provides strategic direction for both government and private sector officials to raise awareness and support the creation of partnerships.

SNA caught up with Nyambe to learn more about inclusivity, the coalition, benefits and a pledge to work very closely with Seychelles to ensure success for the 115 islands archipelago in the western Indian Ocean.  


SNA: How does Special Olympics Africa operate across the continent?

CA: Special Olympics International Africa Region is responsible for establishing and the development of Special Olympics programming in the Africa Region, which includes the sub-Saharan region only. As of today, 41 countries in the African region are accredited to Special Olympics. The Africa Region, with headquarters in Johannesburg South Africa, employs 12 staff members who oversee programme development and operations in each of the accredited countries providing oversight to Special Olympics boards and ensuring good governance. The Africa Region focus is on ensuring local programme development in each country to support the recruitment of individuals with intellectual disabilities as athletes to participate in sports. We use sports as our vehicle to help access and empower this population that is far marginalized worldwide bringing dignity and wellbeing, inclusion leading to acceptance.


SNA: Inclusivity. What does it entail?

CA: Inclusion, if achieved, means the individuals themselves feel satisfactorily included and not inclusion by 'ticking the box' while the individuals do not feel and experience inclusion. We have learned over the years that several organisations desire to implement inclusion but their approach and implementation do not create these true inclusive setups though many of them assume they are implementing inclusion. Absolutely not. To achieve inclusion, the desired results must be to the satisfaction of those involved and that they feel included fully. There is a need for organisations to collect data to understand how effective their efforts to implement inclusion are and continue to explore alternatives and modify approaches to be truly inclusive. 


SNA: What are the specifics of the MoU and its benefits to Seychelles?

CA: The MoU is the first-ever Global Leadership Coalition for Inclusionmade possible through a generous grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.  The Coalition is a multilateral effort that engages national governments to support the in-country expansion of Special Olympics inclusive education through sports programming; Unified Sports and Unified Schools.  The Coalition aims to collaborate closely with national governments as well as foreign aid agencies, UN agencies, industry leaders, global philanthropy, and INGOs [international non-governmental organisations] to invest in inclusive education through sports as a key way for nations to fully implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN-CRPD) and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN-SDGs).   This commitment aims to engage new youth participants across the country, youth with and without intellectual disabilities, in some schools making our inclusive Unified Sports and the theme of inclusion a part of the academic and social journey of all students, enriching schools, supporting teachers, and creating a new narrative of unity and solidarity with those most on the margins.

The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Family signed an MOU with the governing body of the Special Olympics of Seychelles. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY 


SNA: What benefits will the country gain from the MoU?

CA: Achieving human rights and inclusive sustainable development demands not only high-quality practices but also enabling environments created by fully implemented policies and financial commitments. With the global economy contracting and international relations in one of its most volatile states in decades, it is incumbent upon the international development community to protect and empower marginalised populations as part of the implementation and fulfillment of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and, of course, the underlying creed to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – "Leave No One Behind". Through the Global Leadership Coalition for Inclusion, the movement of Special Olympics, together with partners around the world, will ensure that every school, every sports club, and every community centre offer the benefits of inclusive sports as part of our shared commitment to inclusive development for the youth of all abilities.


SNA: And what benefits are there for people living with disabilities?

CA: Learning environments are more fragile and fractured than ever before. In communities around the world, children are experiencing significant social and academic pressure in their schools, compounded by bullying and other harmful behaviors. Young people with intellectual disabilities are among those most underserved by and isolated from education systems globally. A solution to the global classroom crisis can be found in the inclusion revolution that the Special Olympics began on the playing field over fifty years ago. Special Olympics Programmes and activities equip young people with the tools and training to create inclusive experiences. 


SNA: Can you provide some clarity on inclusivity in sports and inclusivity in education?

CA: Unified Sports is a model designed by Special Olympics that brings together individuals with and without intellectual disabilities of the same age and gender to play on the field, which results in friendships extending off the field creating lasting inclusivity. When this model is expanded into schools through the Global Coalition for Inclusion, the educational atmosphere becomes conducive and encouraging to both those with and without intellectual disabilities as has been proven through its research. Teasing and bullying have been reduced in schools in which this practice was implemented. A most effective route to inclusion! This will not be a project as such in the future but a way of life as it has been proven as the most effective and easiest approach to achieve inclusive outcomes. If not, Special Olympics will pursue this practice to encourage inclusion and will use the outcomes of this project to encourage those communities that will still be behind, as expected in the divided world we live in. 

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Tags: Special Olympics Africa, Special Olympics of Seychelles, United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

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