Sidwell Mayekiso was first introduced to chess by his physiotherapist while in primary school. He has since dedicated 30 years to teaching children from disadvantaged backgrounds how to play the game. He works with his wife and various primary schools in Khayelitsha, including Noluthando School for the Deaf.
“Since I was lazy to do the exercises with my physio, I decided to learn how to play chess instead and that’s where my love for the game began. When I discovered chess, I didn’t get the chance to play nationally, even provincially because of the government system in those years. So, when I moved to Cape Town, I decided to fulfil my dream by teaching young children how to play chess and that’s when I started the 2-Kinights Chess Academy. It wasn’t easy as resources were scarce and I would use my social grant to pay for things such as transport so they could participate in competitions.”
Fortunately, in 2017, Sidwell met Ikamva Labantu, who supported him by providing transportation and food for his team. Currently, 25 children come to practice with Sidwell every week, and some of his students will compete for grand master’s in the Cape Town Open.
“My dream is to see some of these kids becoming grand masters, international or federal masters. In 2019, two of my girls were selected to play in Panama, South America, but this was halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We also managed to beat all the schools in under 13s including one of the best schools, Curro. We participated in many competitions around the country. One of my students beat two federal masters from Namibia and Mozambique.
I can see the impact of my projects as there are more children coming and I have to turn some away due to space and resources. Ikamva Labantu’s support means a lot, I cannot explain it. I’m just excited that they have been supporting me in every way and are always there for me.”
Despite challenges such as a drop in the number of girls participating at a certain age, Sidwell is determined to help his students succeed. He is even working with a Psychologist to understand why girls lose interest at a certain age, and he has already seen a positive change in their attitudes towards chess after just three sessions.
Sidwell is proud to note that some of his students who were previously struggling in class are now able to focus and perform better. He attributes this to the concentration and critical thinking skills that chess demands. Furthermore, he has seen improvements in his students’ math skills as a result of playing chess.
Click here to view a short video clip with more information on Sidwell’s chess academy.