Cape Town based disabled coach leads youth from the streets to the national and global chess stage.
A community leader with a disability is making powerful moves in Khayelitsha and is pulling a check-mate position on negative influences for the youth. With a desire to begin a chess academy to help young people veer away from gangsterism and drugs, Sidwell Mayekiso used his chess skills and knowledge to take on the role of teacher – and used his disability grant to make the dream a reality.
It all began in 2016 when Sidwell and his wife Zingiswa moved to Cape Town and became aware of just how easily young people were drawn to the clutches of crime.
This is where the 2 Knights Chess Academy was born as a concept.
Sidwell had been an avid chess player for years, having had a love for the game since his youth when he was diagnosed with polio and using a wheelchair, finding joy in the sport of chess. Now, he adds ‘teacher’ to his chess attributes.
To help pay for his students transport and registration costs, Sidwell used portions of his R1500 disability grant as many of the young chess students’ parents could not afford the fees.
“They want to learn, and it’s so easy for me to teach them. We meet every day from Monday to Thursday, and on Saturdays, we play online games at my house. I have a router, and they enjoy themselves there,” he said of his lessons as per GoodThingsGuy. Sidwell teaches them about grandmasters and shares knowledge on skills and chess books.
Of the students, the coach expresses that his love for them pushes him.
The academy is hosted at Impendulo Primary School and other locations willing to accommodate their space. Before the pandemic, the academy had around 150 students ranging from grade R to matric. Today, he has 60 students.
Two of his stars Thimna Angel Choli and Solulele Diniso, were selected to represent South Africa at the World Schools Individual Chess Championship in Panama City in 2019 – which the pandemic unfortunately haltered.
Another top performer from the academy is Bongolethu Ncethelo who plays chess for the Western Province and resides with a rating of a strong 1500.
“In our communities, we need to make a difference. Whether you are disabled or not, you can still contribute,” says the coach.
Sidwell no longer needs his disability grant after local NPO Ikamva Labantu joined the journey of the academy in uplifting the community.
The next goal for the coach is tied to getting his students to participate in the South African Junior Chess Championships.