Personal characteristics of adolescents in the school setting and their physical activity level
Majority of the respondents felt that adolescents were not attaining their daily recommended levels for physical activity. According to the respondents, there was sex differential in the physical activity behaviours of adolescents; most discussants opined that males were more active than the females. The quote below illustrates these views:
“The adolescents are inactive however; boys are more active than girl. During break time, the males play football and walk around. But the girls just buy food at the vendors and at times they do minor things [minor PA] such as walking around or doing “tenten” [a local games common among females which requires clapping, jumping and singing] FGD discussant from a Public School.
Factors attributed to the sex differential in PA levels include gender norms, the sexuality of the adolescents, the low social interaction by females and more devotion to academic activities as expressed in the quotes from key informants below:
“….…….definitely, we know that the feminine nature for females and the masculine nature of the boys influence their physical activity levels” Key Informant from a Public Secondary School.
“……….. you know some of them [Girls] are bookworms [individuals who devote a lot of time to academic activities] they don’t always interact. Even if a boy is a bookworm, he will always be outside to participate in physical activity and show that he is strong……….”Key Informant from a Private Secondary School.
Another pertinent factor identified as contributing to the low physical activity level of females is the limited gender specific physical activity facilities and equipment for sporting activities in the schools as expressed below”
…..why girls are not fully involved in PA? ........ it is because the facilities for the sport activities which girls like are costly. Girls enjoy sports such as badminton but the equipment are expensive ……we can engage them to be active but we are limited because of the equipment........ we don’t have equipment for them [girls]. They also prefer table tennis and prefer volley ball which will not roughen their bodies......but these are expensive… …. FGD discussant from a Public School.
Furthermore, the respondents in both public and private schools noted the lower levels of physical activity among older adolescents compared to younger ones as encapsulated in the quote below:”
“ The senior classes [students in senior classes who are older adolescents] have minimal PA levels. Even you can see it from those running around. For the younger ones you have to caution them - don’t make noise! don’t roam around! ” FGD discussant from a Private Secondary School.
Factors contributing to the lower levels of physical activity among older adolescents compared to younger ones were increasing age including maturity, external influences and heightened awareness of the opposite sex as expressed in the quotes below:
"they [older adolescents] are matured. They are not as playful as the junior classes” FGD discussant from a Private Secondary School
“I think their level of physical activity is low, the senior students [older adolescents] are influenced by their environment and the females mix with the males [they interact with males], it affects their physical activity levels....they are self-conscious about the males and it affects their physical activity behaviours” Key Informant from a Public School.
Antecedent and socio-cultural factors influencing physical activity behaviours of adolescents
Several factors influencing the physical activity behaviours of adolescents were mentioned by the respondents including the low awareness of the benefits of physical activity as illustrated in the quotes below:
“ Majority of the adolescents are not aware of the benefits of physical fitness and their parents are illiterates. They [their parents] don’t participate in any exercise ” Key Informant from a Public Secondary School.
In addition, respondents opined that parental restraints, social values/gender norms(misconstrued value placed on female virginity), cultural or religious factors may influence the physical activity behaviours of adolescents as expressed in the quotes below:
“In fact, some culture would tell you that you are not supposed to interact with a male or a female [which may be inevitable during sporting activities] all those things are limiting them thereby impacting negatively on their health” FGD discussant from a Public Secondary School.
This was buttressed with a case study as expressed by an FGD discussant below
“…….. Yes, I had an example during the last inter-house sport, this girl was so keen, she wanted to run. We had an external coach that came around and he told her that if she does not remove all these things [clothes and garments which cover the body in line with Islamic injunctions], he won’t allow her to run, well reluctantly she removed everything and she was begging “please I want to run” and by the time she did it, she came out well in-fact I was encouraged because I had thought that was the end” FGD discussant from a Public Secondary School.
Cultural barriers coupled with myths and misconceptions about the effect of physical activity on the females’ physique were barriers mentioned by the respondents as expressed below:
“…… some cultures don’t encourage participation, they don’t want the females to expose their bodies……..because of the rigour of vigorous exercise, they believe women are weaker vessels and only men should be active ........ in some culture…...in some ethnic groups that is the belief” Key Informant from a Public School
“the society feels that the female body can easily be harmed or injured, because of the way the body structure is made up and the physiological issue [so they don’t encourage physical activity]”FGD discussant from a Private Secondary School.
Other fears expressed was the impression that physical exercises can break the hymen of females, result in the development of masculine features which can limit opportunities to get married in future and cause infertility as expressed below:
“some people believe that if a virgin exercises too often, she will become disvirgined. If they run too much ..............it can make them look more like a man and they will develop muscles. So they discourage their female children that it makes them look like a man and they ask, who will marry you?” FGD discussant from a Private Secondary School.
“Some parent prevent their female children or wards from participating in sporting activities because they believe that they would not be able to give birth to a child later on, so they prevent them from the activities” FGD discussant from a Public Secondary School.
These views highlight the peculiar challenges the female adolescents experience with physical activity.
Also of import is the respondents’ viewpoint that parental influence has an implication on the physical activity behaviours of adolescents. For instance, they opined that parents indulge their wards making them depend on motorized transportation rather than active transportation.
“....... many parents are indulging their wards. Instead of encouraging them to walk, they prefer to give them money to take “okada”[motor bicycles] or to take taxis” Key informant from a Public Secondary School.
School-related factors influencing the physical activity behaviours of adolescents
School related factors were identified as a major bane to physical activity among adolescents. According to the respondents, a lot of changes have occurred in the school settings over the years and these have detrimental effects on physical activity and exercise among adolescents. For instance, the number of trained Physical Health Education Specialist Teachers has declined significantly and where they exist, their continuing education and professional development is not prioritised. The quotes below underscore this finding:
“In times past, schools had at least one or two [PHE teachers] but now If you go to ten schools, I don’t think you can get more than two PHE teachers in all the ten schools”“Key Informant from a Public Secondary School
“……. schools are very poor in staff development programmes because we believe seminars and workshop are not for PHE teachers, we just pick [choice] subjects. We hold seminars and workshops for Mathematic and English teachers, but for PHE teachers, we don’t “Key Informant from a Private Secondary School
Furthermore, in most public and private schools, the delivery of physical health education classes are compromised due to more emphasize on its theoretical concepts to the disadvantage of practical demonstrations stemming largely from the lack of equipment and sporting facilities and large students population without a corresponding number of teachers as opined in the quotes from respondents in the public and private schools below
“ Most schools lack the equipment..... look at this school for example, since we've resumed this term, we have not had any PHE lesson, we don’t even have a PHE teacher” …. FGD Discussant in a Private School.
“ In this school particularly. we don’t have a large field and we don't have PHE teacher. I will say averagely with my knowledge, the schools I've taught, they don't really have that facility. and there's inadequate man power” Key Informant from a Public School.
Other factors include the limited time for PHE classes and the emphasis on the theoretical concepts rather than the practical sessions as expressed in the quotes below:
“…….. we have limited time for the PHE lecture, we have just 45 minutes so at times we use the whole of 45minutes in the class” FGD Discussant in a Public School.
“…………….the students take physical health education classes from Junior Secondary School 1 to 3. But they do more of the theoretical sessions than the practical and it is the fault of the government and the school administration” FGD discussant from a Public Secondary School.
Financing was a major factor identified as limiting the availability of facilities and opportunities for PA in schools as illustrated in the quote below:
……… in fact let me tell you, ……, when you admit a student to the public school, they pay an annual tuition of N630 ($2), out of that amount, only 50 naira ($0.14) is allocated for sports. This is insufficient! “Key Informant from a Public Secondary School.
Compounding the problem is the poor attitude of teachers, school heads and parents towards the delivery of physical health education as expressed in the quotes below:
“, some School Principal and Teachers believe physical activity /physical education classes is a waste of time ........ the time that the students spend jumping about and doing all those PA can be used for other meaningful subjects. At times, even we [Teachers] will say, what is Physical Health Education /PA? this is not necessary....We also say what is ‘jumpology’? (a derogatory term for Physical Health Education) (scoffs) it is not necessary, we believe that Mathematics, English, Chemistry are important subjects but when it comes to PHE we believe it is not necessary and it is not important and that is why many schools don’t want to invest in it” FGD Discussant from a Private Secondary School
“We still have Physical Health Education [as a subject] on our timetable but the periods may not be similar to what we have for subjects like Mathematics. If Mathematics comes up five times in a week, PHE may be like once, you understand? So that is just it” Key Informant from a Private Secondary School.
The respondents also expressed that despite some regulatory guide for the delivery of PHE, the school management and parents decide how and if they want PHE delivered in schools as expressed below:
“…….. the laws are there, PHE is compulsory, it is there but the parents, the school management [school authorities] and the society has already decided on what is paramount [i.e. other core subjects like mathematics and English] and what is not paramount [other subjects like physical health education]”FGD discussant from a Private Secondary School.
In addition, the poor social support from teachers for physical activity in school which is linked to their interest in academic activities such as reading as well as the dislike of physical exercise were noted as influencing factors as reflected in the quotes below:
“……. many teachers, they hinder and prevent the students from being active. Teachers usually prevent them and tell them to go and read even when it is time for them to do physical exercise. So many teachers think that reading, reading and reading only will help students” Key informant from a Public Secondary School.
A quote from a respondent further supports this view as outlined below:
“- I think it is the attitude of teachers and school policy [which influence PA]. Let me use myself as an analogy. I don’t like sports at all, if I see any opportunity where the student can be taken away from the field back in classroom, I would support such, you understand? I don’t like sports”. Key Informant from a Private Secondary School.
Opportunities for physical activity promotion in schools
Other extracurricular opportunities for the promotion of physical activity during school hours specifically the assembly grounds, break time, after school and inter house sporting competitions were identified. With regards to school assemblies, the respondents in public schools expressed that PA through this avenue is no longer possible due to a policy directive from the Oyo State Ministry of Education to stop the conduct of school assemblies due to security threats. The quotes below illustrate this finding:
“we used to have school assembly everyday but because of the security issues in the country, we were directed to stop it” Key Informant from a Public School
“We’ve cancelled it [the School assembly], It has been cancelled, we now conduct class assembly…….. [where] they will pray, sing the national anthem, national pledge and the school anthem. Afterward, the normal class work will commence so we don’t have physical activity or sporting activity during that period” Key informant from a Public Secondary School
However; private schools still utilise this opportunity as highlighted in the quote below:
“On Monday for instance we were on the assembly ground, we danced for an hour, acrobatic dancing, so we consider physical activity on the school assembly as being very important” Key Informant from a Private School.
This constitutes a missed opportunity for the promotion of PA in school. Furthermore, break time which is another feasible opportunity for PA has been severely constricted due to the introduction of new subjects which expanded the curricula and competing academic time. This presents a challenge to public but not private schools as stated in the quotes below
“ and I observe that the private schools have two break times - short break and long break, then it used to be the same in the public schools. However, we only have one period for the break ….. because we have so many subjects …..some of these subjects are not useful” FGD discussant from a Public Secondary School
After school sessions can also help promote PA behaviours, however this opportunity is not explored due to the unwillingness of teachers to supervise activities during this period resulting in increased risk of accidents as expounded in the quotes below
“immediately after school hours we expect them to leave the school compound and go home, we don’t want any casualties. Even during school hours, we have problems keeping an eye on them, several times they have fractured hand, broken legs and so on ….” FGD discussant from a Public Secondary School.
A respondent shared an experience as described below:
“……….. we had an experience sometimes ago. After school, the students arranged to go and swim. They went to the deepest part of the river and unfortunately we lost the student. We always ensure that students leave the schools immediately just because of that experience ..…..” FGD discussant from a Public Secondary School.
Inter house sports competition which holds potential for galvanizing school-wide interest in PA was identified. According to the discussants in the private schools, interhouse sports competition hold regularly but the frequency of its conduct in public schools has reduced drastically due to lack of funding and the aftermath crisis associated with the failure of losing teams to accept defeat in the spirit of sportsmanship. The quotes below illustrate these points:
“We have interhouse sports competition every two years. We group them into houses, some may be for programmes like the 100 m race, the basket ball, table tennis and other things. We also do gymnastics” FGD discussant from a Private Secondary School.
“With regards to inter-house sports, it’s based on the interest of the principal, most of the principals do not like conducting inter-house sports competition, during the inter house sports competitions, students usually fight…. that is the reason why most of the schools are not interested in the event ” FGD discussant from a Public Secondary School.
……. there is hooliganism in sport especially during inter house sports. We usually invite the military and paramilitary personnel to help curb the excesses of the students” Key informant from a Public Secondary School.
Finally, of import is the negative impact of the poor road network, increased accident risks and government policies on the conduct of marathon and cross country races as reflected in the quote below:“ previously before the inter-house sports or during the time of inter-house sports, we usually take cross country race but that is no more due to government policies and because of the poor connectivity of the roads……. It’s not safe” FGD discussant from a Public Secondary School.