Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Emeritus), the Honourary Chairperson of AWEPA, is associated with the Free University (Vrije Universiteit-VU) of Amsterdam via the Desmond Tutu Chair in Youth, Sport and Reconciliation. The programme is split among five professorships, one of whom is Prof. Geert Savelsbergh, known as the ‘football professor’ because of his groundbreaking Human Movement Sciences research into penalty-taking. Through research collaboration with South African universities, the Desmond Tutu Programme at VU is working to strengthen academic standards, and its impact is being felt across the broader society. Prof. Savelsbergh’s initiatives to supervise two Ph.D. candidates will contribute to the development of an academic tradition that is virtually unknown in Africa, and the combined impact will improve local capability to identify and train young sports talents.
Prof. Savelsbergh also brought a new dimension to his participation by holding special football clinics for disadvantaged youth in three provinces of South Africa during the June 2010 World Cup of Football. In addition to the sharpening of sports acumen, ‘life skills’ were among the topics included in the programme, which also featured seminars on Soccer, Nation-building and Higher Education. South African university partners have since expanded on the initiative as a method to help instill the value ofeducation and staying in school. Hundreds of young people have benefited from this cooperation so far, and follow-up plans are being developed for the World Cup in Brazil in 2014. The related research results will improve understanding in two areas: movement decision-making and performance; and perceptual motor learning and control.
AWEPA is engaged with parliamentary partners in Africa on the topic of youth employment as part of its MDG Programme. The regional parliamentary seminar with the East African Legislative Assembly, held in April 2012 in Nairobi, confirmed the keen interest in and strong demand for strengthening education, training and scientific advancement in Africa, if young people are to be able to capitalize on emerging opportunities to create careers for themselves. The example of inter-university cooperation presented by the Desmond Tutu Programme is one that other African countries could also benefit from.