“Exercise dissipates tension, and tension is the enemy of serenity. I found that I worked better and thought more clearly when I was in good physical condition, and so training became one of the inflexible disciplines of my life.” ~ Nelson Mandela from Long Walk to Freedom, 1994

 On the day that would have been Nelson Mandela’s 101st birthday, the Department of Basic Education and the Woolworths Education Programme are celebrating by bringing a special health and fitness programme to Ilinge Primary school in Uitenhage.

More than 1200 learners, 40 educators and staff, as well as 9 food handler volunteers who cook and serve meals of the school’s nutrition programme participated in an action-packed day that highlighted the benefits and enjoyment of healthy eating and physical exercise.

All learners had the opportunity to participate in the entertaining Woolworths Education Programme’s ‘Healthy Living’ class lesson that uses engaging interactive activities to teach the basics of healthy nutrition, including the South African Dietary-based Guidelines.  In partnership with the Sports Science Institute of South Africa (SSISA), the children were put through their paces along a six station health track manned by SSISA instructors, who helped them master different techniques.  From forward rolls, mountain climbing, mini soccer ball and skipping rope challenges to a hula-hooping marathon as well as fine tuning ‘catch and throw’ and running backwards, Ilinge learners experienced that a range of physical activities is not just good for you, but good fun too! 

All the sporting equipment used in the health track was donated to Ilinge Primary so that the school can continue to enjoy the benefits of physical activity.

In addition, the food handler volunteers and school vendors had a valuable interaction with a Woolworths dietitian. The focus was on the important balance provided by a variety of foods, healthy fats, understanding food labels, avoiding added sugar and salt, sharing food safety and hygiene practices as well as encouraging the sale of healthy choices by the vendors.

“We are very grateful to Ilinge Primary and the Department of Education to give us the opportunity to create a day for the learners and their school community that makes a lasting difference,” says Pieter Twine, General Manager Woolworths Education Programme and MySchool MyVillage My Planet fundraising programme.  “To celebrate Nelson Mandela’s incredible legacy, we aimed to empower and inspire Ilinge Primary to adopt a healthier lifestyle with a focus on good nutrition and regular physical activity.”

Dr Faith Kumalo – Chief Director for Care and Support in Schools at the Department of Basic Education, said “This day is dedicated to all the children to have fun while doing physical exercise. In addition to a healthy diet, regular physical exercise boosts the immune system, improves mental vitality and helps prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity. President Mandela was an ardent sportsman who, through his life, demonstrated that a healthy body nurtures a healthy mind. We want to thank Woolworths SA and other partners for making it possible for the Department to give 67 minutes of our time to make a difference at Ilinge Primary School. Nutrition Education is important and should be implemented effectively in every school”.