Basketball program dunks for academic excellence

As the third generation of the Isibindi e.V., a non-profit organisation, German volunteers, Daniel Kinzelmann and Charlotte Joosten have found basketball as a great allure promote education.
The pair volunteer at the Basketball Artists School (BAS) at the Katutura Youth Complex where they help run an afterschool program for leaners in Grade seven, between the ages 13-15 and some seniors mainly in Grade 10, between ages 15-17.
Although the two had different had slightly different circumstances that led them to the corner of Katutura, they have both dedicated a year of their lives to not only enhancing the education of the leaners under their care, but teaching them a thing or two about basketball.
“I didn’t particularly know about Namibia before. I was just interested in the project. I used to give extra lessons to learners of the same age group as we have here back home in Germany. I also used to do some work as a basketball coach at my local basketball club, TV Marbach,” says Kinzelmann.
Meanwhile Joosten explains that she had always wanted to come to Africa. It intrigued her, as a land that felt so far away. In 2014, she had just finished her high school and wanted to take a gap year and the BAS program gave her the perfect opportunity to see the continent.
Despite their commitment to giving the best basketball coaching they can, they are more concerned with educating the learners, something which is their organisation’s motto.
“We look at their curriculum and go over that with them. Basketball comes second. One out of a million people who play basketball get to do it professionally. With education, they always have another option,” says Kinzelmann.
Joosten agrees with his sentiments, stating, “Even in Europe, where we are from, those who play basketball are only able to live off it so much. Those who do really well can go into the NBA in the USA.” She adds, “As you know, in Namibia the basketball is not so big, so we want to focus on their education.”
The training programs are fairly simple. They have shooting, ball handling and other technique practices during the week and Fridays they have tournaments.
The volunteers explain that although the main aim is education, basketball as a sport does play an important part of the program.
“They gain a lot of confidence through playing. It teaches them teamwork. For many of the kids, they are only used to thinking for themselves. In the beginning, a lot of them struggled with the idea of playing with others,” says Joosten.
Kinzelmann explains that the basketball coaching he gives to the learners is the best they could get, and points out that the skills the students have picked up from him they have been able to use in their school teams.
The learners will also be taking part in a school basketball league where they will be representing their respective schools.
As far as improving the education of the students goes, Kinzelmann explains that they check the students’ report cards each semester to see how far each of the children have progressed at school.
“We teach them math, English and social studies, including topics such as HIV/AIDS and personal hygiene. At the start of the year, we noticed that many of the students were quite behind. This is something we have picked up, not only in Namibia, but it is everywhere,” Joosten says. She adds, “It is not the teacher’s fault, it’s the system. Most teachers have about 30 students in their class and they cannot give attention to everyone, but there are some students that need the extra attention.”
As the volunteers can only stay for one year, they only have two months left in the country as they have been here for 10 months. Joosten explains that the revolving door can take its toll on the students as they grow attached to the volunteers. “When we are done we will go back to Germany for university. It will be very tough to leave and it will be tough on the students too. They grew very attached to us. It was very tough for them to do so in the beginning because they were attached to the previous volunteers, but overtime they grew to trust us. They even opened up to us and confided in us about some of their situations at home. Some of these kids don’t even have running water at home and that is very hard to imagine.”
For a lot of the kids, Joosten explains, the BAS program is like a second family, so much so that the pair plans to come back for a visit when their time in Namibia is done.