Three NCF representatives met with former world champion and current FIDE presidency candidate Garry Kasparov together with his South African dignitaries, which included Afika Msimang, president of the Kasparov Chess Foundation in Africa and the president of Chess South Africa, Hendrik du Toit amongst others. President of the Namibia Chess Federation, Otto Nakapunda and his colleagues rubbed shoulders with Kasparov during a dinner meeting in Sandton, Johannesburg, where the chess minded grandees presented radical methods of growing chess not only in Namibia but in Africa as a whole. Amidst a number of campaign driven discussions, Kasparov mentioned that he now recognized the fact that Africa has been neglected for far too long in terms of providing chess as an educational tool and that he himself was guilty of this a few years back. The now retired professional chess player however has now continued to show his commitment to developing chess in school programs in many African countries.
The NCF delegates were also treated to an eye-opening workshop aimed at illustrating how chess has had a huge impact on South African schools through a MiniChess Program that has become renowned as an award winning educational program in South Africa. The founder of the MiniChess program, Marisa van der Merwe, who facilitated the workshop, says that, “MiniChess is aimed at children 5-9 years old as it not only makes them school ready but also helps them understand maths and science through chess at a very tender age.” She also pointed out that the program is currently employed at a number of pre-primary and primary schools in South Africa which all show great progress in terms of the children’s logic, problem solving skills, creativity, planning, concentration, reading and emotional maturity. “The MiniChess program was developed over years of teaching chess to “entry phase” learners (5 to 9 years of age) as part of the school curriculum. It has already been used on a trial basis, with great success, at a number of schools in SA,” she explains.
The program would ideally fit into Namibian pre-schools and elementary schools as it is organized into structured lessons, with detailed lesson plans in the Teacher's Manuals and attractive Project Books for the learners. Marisa demonstrated that the program uses tried and tested methods for teaching chess to little ones, including the use of so-called "MiniChess" games.
Public Relations Officer of NCF, McLean Handjaba, was most pleased with the program and hints that should the program find home in Namibia, the whole nation as a whole will benefit for generations to come as it aims at educating the very core and life of our country and that is the children. Also fascinated by the program was Development Officer, Charles Eichab, who says that the program is very beneficial as, “the learning process is broken down into small steps, building confidence while keeping it fun, and is in line with the skills level of the young child at that specific age, e.g. Colouring, cutting and pasting, form recognition, simple pattern recognition, a little bit of writing, etc. in the case of 6 year olds (grade 1). In addition it consists of 4 levels, with each level accommodating the continual development of skills and capacity as the child grows.”