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Sport is not just about winning medals and trophies but is also a tool for social cohesion and nation building.

This is according to Sumayya Khan, who is the Chief Operating Offi cer (COO) at Sport and Recreation South Africa.

For most of her career, Khan has been involved in sport. She started off as a qualifi ed physical education teacher, both in primary and high schools,

and coached netball, volleyball, athletics, gymnastics and cricket for about 17 years.

Khan holds a Diploma in Further Education, a Diploma in Sports Management and various certifi cates in leadership,

sports coaching and administration, including a sports administrator course accredited by the International Olympic Committee.

Through her coaching experience, Khan has realised that sport is a good distraction that prevents people from getting involved in illegal activities and other social ills.

This is why the South African National School Sport Championship is one of her favourite programmes led by the department.

This annual programme sees top schools participating for national honours in a series of events.

Climbing up the ranks Khan joined the department in 1998 as a Deputy Director for sport

and recreation in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Department of Education and Culture when physical education was phased out of the school curriculum.

“I really wanted to be in sport, so I started looking for new jobs and opportunities in the sporting sector.

That is when I applied for the job at the department,” she said. She worked her way up the ranks to become the Director for Cultural Services in the eThekwini region of the KZN Department of Education,

 managing sport and recreation development and arts, culture and youth affairs both for schools and communities.

 In 2004, when the stand-alone Department of Sport and Recreation in KZN was established,

she was appointed as Chief Director and later as the Head of Department of the new department.

“I was on a contract for five years and, just as it was about to end, the national department advertised the COO post in 2010. I applied and got the job,” she said.

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