In the past, talented children have been paid by a school they do not attend to represent them in Volunteer Uganda tournaments, leading VU to bring in a rule that a pupil must have been at that school for a minimum of two weeks before they can participate.
As we prepared for the final of our tournament, we didn’t recognise several players representing a school we knew really well. Fortunately two of our VU colleagues, Andy Whalen and Jo Slade, were teaching there and they confirmed that they didn’t know some of the team members. Then we saw one of the teachers wearing a kit – he was going to play for the school team…and a primary school at that! The difficulty in Uganda is that he is quite a young teacher and one can still attend primary school in their late teens. However, WE KNEW HIM!!! That was really disappointing. Not only was it unfair on the children that had got the school into the final but were now being replaced, it was also sending out the wrong message to the pupils. He was teaching them that winning was the only thing that mattered – at any cost, even blatant cheating. Their argument was effectively that the other team was probably doing the same, so what was the problem? I made my feelings extremely clear that trying to win by playing fairly would be far more satisfying than doing it dishonestly, and was far more important than winning anyway.
Andy has gone on to coach baseball in Uganda and the same problem exists in that sport…indeed as I understand it, Uganda were banned from the Little League World Series for trying to get visas for over-aged players.