Philosopher writes thesis on sport and apartheid

Dr Roderick Willis, who recently graduated with his doctorate of Philosophy degree (PhD) in Sports Science, 66, from Colorado Park, plans to have his thesis published in a book

A Colorado Park grandfather, a graduate of doctorate of Philosophy degree (PhD) in Sports Science, endurance runner and lecturer proves in his dissertation how athletics organised by teachers, during apartheid impacted the lives of 1 000s of pupils.

Dr Roderick Willis, 66, graduated from Stellenbosch University on Tuesday March 28.

Having been a former high school athlete of Western Province Senior School Sports Union during apartheid, his dissertation speaks to how well school sports was organised by convenors, who were committed to bringing sporting activities to the pupils of oppressed communities in the Western Cape between 1956 and 1994.

He said there were different codes of sport at high school, like soccer, rugby, netball, cricket, softball, baseball, table tennis and athletics.

“Pupils were kept busy after school and preferred these activities, rather than indulging in activities like gangsterism, drugs etc. The reverse is happening in our society where learners have no afternoon sporting activities, and this leads to all kinds of evils that are prevalent in our society today,“ he said.

Dr Willis said the main reason for this was the absence of after school activities, in particular sport, in the poor communities of the Cape Flats.

“This was my motivation for embarking on this study that is entitled ‘A historical narrative of high school athletics among oppressed communities in the Western Cape, 1956 – 1994,” he said.

He was a teacher for 42 years and retired in March 2022 from The Settlers High School, in Bellville, where he served for 18-years.

He also taught at numerous high schools in Mitchell’s Plain, including Portland High School, Mondale, Beacon Hill and Westridge high schools.

Mr Willis and his wife have two children and four grandchildren.

They moved from Heideveld to Mitchell’s Plain, where they raised their family.

“I intend on converting my dissertation into a book and I would like to include the experiences of former athletes particularly of the Cape Flats,” he said.

Mr Willis wants parents and sports organisers to read his work so that they can realise the “greatness of sport in channelling energy in active sports rather than drugs and gangsterism”.

He has completed 20 Two Oceans Marathons of 56km and ten Comrades marathons, of approximately 89km between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg.

He wants more people to get involved in sports activities in high schools.

Mr Willis is calling on former athletes of Western Province Senior School Sports Union (WPSSSU) to send information, including newspaper articles, certificates and magazine publications to him via email