Original Research

Physical education and health as a child’s right: Reflections on the Soweto Active Schools programme

Cora Burnett-Louw
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 10, No 1 | a776 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v10i1.776 | © 2020 Cora Burnett-Louw | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 21 May 2019 | Published: 08 September 2020

About the author(s)

Cora Burnett-Louw, Department of Sport and Movement Studies, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa


Background: In view of global health concerns about high levels of inactivity and related disease patterns of citizens, Physical Education and Health (PEH) has become an educational priority in many countries, including South Africa.

Aim: The research aimed to explore and capture the effects of a multistakeholder physical education (PE) initiative that focuses on in-service teacher training and implementation of the Soweto Active Schools programme.

Setting: The study was conducted in five pilot schools in Soweto, located in close proximity to the Nike Centre, where the schools take part in organised sport events as part of the programme.

Methods: This pre–post (2016 and 2018) multisite case study utilised mixed methods. Qualitative data were collected through observation of PE lessons, interviews with key stakeholder representatives (n = 6), five school principals (n = 10) and focus group discussions with life skill/life orientation heads of department and teachers (n = 59) and Grade 6 learners (n = 63).

Results: The main findings indicated the emergence of a new educational paradigm informed by value-based PE. Teachers reported positive behaviours by learners, whereas they applied the same values in the teaching of other classes. Learners reported the learning of new motor skills, improved social relations and improved confidence. Principals and teachers appreciated the scaled model of contextually relevant professional learning.

Conclusion: The model disputes the mere outsourcing of PE that elicits the participation of teachers will not adequately equip them for teaching PE. The model can be refined and taken to scale with meaningful information for curriculum design, resource provision and effective implementation of quality PEH.


physical education; health; teacher; education; life orientation/life skills; children’s rights; professional development, Soweto


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