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Basketball Artists School Celebrates 10th Anniversary

From left: Ananias Niizimba, Jacobina Uushona, Dr Vetumbuavi Veii, Petronella Aron and Ramah Mbumba.
WINDHOEK—Basketball Artists School (BAS) will reach a special milestone when it celebrates its tenth anniversary on the weekend of 21 and 22 February. “We are celebrating the lives of the children in the program under the title 'ten years of changing people's lives.'

We want to showcase what BAS has done for the kids as well as for the Katutura community,” the director of BAS, Ramah Mbumba said at a press conference at its headquarters in Katutura on Tuesday. The chairman of the board of BAS, Dr Vetumbuavi Veii recounted the early years of the programme and the impact that it had made on the lives of its members.

“The programme was initiated 10 years ago by the German basketball expert Frank Albin who had been seconded to Namibia by the German government to help develop basketball in the country. When his contract expired he didn't want to return to Germany, he wanted to stay, so he got support from many German sponsors and started raising funds to start a basketball programme here. I was then the national director of sport and he came to me and said he had funds for a facility, but they needed land, so after negotiations with the Ministry of Transport I managed to get them this land.”

Albin got support from several German sponsors, from government to the private sector, as well as individual families. Some of the German institutions that backed the programme included the German Basketball Federation, the German Olympic Sports Confederation, and the German non-profit organisation Isibindi, while the Namibian Ministry of Sport and the Namibia Basketball Federation also supported the project.

The school started operating in 2010, but the actual building was inaugurated on the premises of the Katutura Youth Sport Complex on 25 October 2014. Since then the centre gradually expanded and now incorporates a class room, a library, a gymnasium and basketball courts, amongst others.

“From the start, our motto was 'education first, basketball second', Veii said, adding, “we looked at kids from disadvantaged backgrounds, but also those who had potential in basketball. We provide food for them, they go to school then come and have lunch here, then do their home work and then practise basketball. The programme has been very successful and today I'd say at least 70 percent of our national basketball team graduated from the Basketball Artists School,” he said.

“This programme has changed the lives of many young people and I'm very proud of them. It's amazing to see how their lifestyles have changed - they are disciplined and respectful, while we even have some who are students at NUST or Unam,” he added.

“They are doing a commendable job and we would like to call on the private sector to help and contribute to the social upliftment of these kids and to come and support our 10th anniversary celebrations,” he said. Mbumba said their recruitment process had improved through trial and error.

“We go to nearby schools and recruit learners in Grade 4 or 5 to undergo a three-month trial. We look at certain criteria like education and sporting ability, but most importantly their commitment to the program, because in the beginning we had quite a lot of drop outs, but now it's much better. Many stay on as volunteers or coaches to give back to the community,” he said. One of the BAS members, Jacobina Uushona, who is currently a student at Unam, shed more light on the anniversary activities that will take place.

“We will start at 08h00 on Friday, 21 February when we will focus on basketball, life skills and education. We have invited some members of learners representative councils of schools in the area who will give presentations on leadership, while there will also be a lot of fun activities to teach children about life skills through games,” she said.

There will also be a basketball tournament throughout the weekend, while some of the German sponsors and families will be present on Saturday, 22 February, when they will meet some of their beneficiaries, who will make presentations about how their lives have been changed by BAS. Albin, who was also present, highlighted the importance of education in the programme.

“It's great and I love the motto of changing lives, because education plays a very important role. BAS is a safe haven for our kids, because we take them off the streets, and I'm looking forward to the kids doing the whole programme and telling their life stories and how they changed through BAS.” Uushona, meanwhile, recalled the role that BAS had played in her life.

“I grew up as the youngest of five children of a single mother and it was very difficult for her to raise us. I joined BAS at the age of 10 and since then they have helped a lot with tuition fees and school material and equipment - they have helped my mom a lot and have been like a family for me,” she said.

“After school BAS supported me financially to do media studies at Unam, but after that I got a government loan. Now I'm in my third year and I'm loving it. I want to become a public relations officer - I'm getting a lot of experience and also do my internships here at BAS,” she added.
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