Six School Principals/Vice Principals participated in the key informant interviews while 53 teachers participated in the focus group discussion sessions. Most of the key informant interviewees were males (66.7%) while the focus group discussants were largely females (56.6%). The ages of the key informant interviewees ranged from 45 to 57 years (mean age = 49.3 ± 4.1) while for the focus group discussants, it ranged from 23 to 45 years (mean age = 39 ± 8.7).
Perceived parental factors influencing the physical activity behaviors of adolescents
This theme refers to the perceived parental factors in the family microsystem which influence the physical activity behaviours of adolescents. It comprises three sub themes: parental education and participation in PA, cultural beliefs on the effects of sports on females’ future fertility potential and preference for motorised transportation rather than active commuting for their children/wards. The prominent sub-themes were parental education and participation in PA and cultural beliefs on the effects of sports on females’ future fertility potential.
Parental education and participation in PA
This was a prominent sub-theme and participants expressed that parental level of education had implication on their appreciation of the importance of PA and its effect on the health of their children. They were of the view that parents had limited knowledge on the importance and benefits of physical exercise which invariably influenced their ability to encourage adolescents to engage in PA as expressed in the quote by a discussant in a private school “The level of education of the parents will determine the extent to which they will appreciate physical exercise. Our parents “(...)“ do they know the importance of physical exercise? do they encourage the adolescents to participate in PA? do they appreciate it? the answer is no” (FGD discussant from a Private Secondary School). Similar views were expressed by a key informant from a public school who stated that parental illiteracy contributed to poor awareness of the benefits of PA among adolescents and this had implication on parents’ involvement in PA and their ability to model this healthy behaviour. This finding is illustrated in this quote “Majority of the adolescents are not aware of the benefits of physical fitness and their parents are illiterates. They [their parents] don’t participate in any exercise” (Key Informant from a Public Secondary School).
Parental cultural beliefs on females’ participation in sports and its effect on fertility
This was also a major sub-theme, participants expressed that parents’ cultural beliefs on the effects of female’s participation in sports on future fertility was a major influence on their physical activity behaviours. This finding is a reflection of the general, prevailing societal belief and was expressed by participants as a barrier to PA as summarised in this quote “Some parent prevent their female children or wards from participating in sporting activities because they believe that they would not be able to give birth to a child later on, so they prevent them from the activities” (FGD discussant from a Public Secondary School).
Parental preference for motorised transportation
Active commuting is a feasible approach to increase PA participation among adolescents however; most parents in both the public and private schools prefer motorised transportation which is likely linked to the poor road network and increasing spate of roadside accidents and injuries. The participants expressed that parental preference for motorised transportation rather than active commuting was a barrier to PA and opined those parents were indulging their children making them dependent on motorised transportation as expressed by a key informant “many parents are indulging their wards/children. Instead of encouraging them to walk, they prefer to give them money to take “okada” [motor bicycles] or to take taxis [cabs]” (Key informant from a Public Secondary School).
Socio-cultural and religious factors influencing physical activity behaviors of adolescents
This theme focuses on the macro-level socio-cultural and religious factors which influence the physical activity behaviors of adolescents. It comprises two prominent sub-themes which are, the cultural limitations on females’ participation in sports and its implication on their health and marital prospects and cultural limitations on the level of interaction between the opposite sex. The less prominent theme which emanated from the data was the religious injunctions on females’ dressing.
Cultural limitations on females’ participation in sports and its implication on their health and marital prospects
Majority of participants expressed prevailing socio-cultural perspectives and misconceptions which limit the participation of females in PA. Specifically, they stated that the society discourages PA in females because their body is delicate and can easily be harmed. In addition, they stated that some people believe that involvement in vigorous physical exercises can break the hymen of females and also result in the development of masculine features. These observations according to the views expressed by the participants can also cause infertility in females or limit their opportunities to get married in the future as illustrated by the quote from a FGD discussant from a private school “some people believe that if a virgin exercises too often, she will become disvirgined. If they run too much “(...)” it can make them look more like a man and they will develop muscles. So, they discourage their female children that it makes them look like a man and they ask, who will marry you?”
Cultural limitations on opposite sex interaction
Nigeria is a multi-ethnic country and the cultural and religious inclination of different ethnic groups dictates the extent of interaction between adolescents of the opposite. Generally, the Nigerian society tends toward restrictive interactions between adolescents of the opposite sex but the norms are gradually changing and becoming more permissive. This varying cultural differences in the level of interactions between both sexes and its implication on PA was expressed by a participant: “In fact, some culture would tell you that you are not supposed to interact with a male or a female [which may be inevitable during sporting activities] all those things are limiting them thereby impacting negatively on their health” (FGD discussant from a Public Secondary School).
Religious injunctions on female dressing with implication on sporting activity
Religious guidelines on female dressing which prohibits body revealing outfits was identified as a barrier to PA participation and a participant illustrated this with an example: “Yes, I had an example during the last inter-house sport, this girl was so keen, she wanted to run. We had an external coach that came around and he told her that if she does not remove all these things [clothes and garments which cover the body in line with Islamic injunctions], he won’t allow her to run, well reluctantly she removed everything and she was begging “please I want to run” and by the time she did it, she came out well in-fact I was encouraged because I had thought that was the end” (FGD discussant from a Public Secondary School).
School-related factors influencing the physical activity behaviors of adolescents
This theme represents the school-related factors which influence the students’ physical activity behaviours within the school setting. Eight sub-themes were identified as barriers to physical activity among adolescents and the prominent ones were the declining number of trained PHE teachers, lack of PA equipment and facilities in schools, poor financing of schools, increased time devoted to the theoretical concepts rather than the practical PHE sessions, poor attitude of school stakeholders to PHE delivery and poor implementation of regulatory guide for the delivery of PHE. The eight sub-themes are discussed below:
Declining number of trained PHE teachers
This was a prominent sub-theme; according to the respondents, a lot of changes have occurred in the school settings over the years and these have detrimental effects on physical activity and exercise among adolescents. Of note is the decline in the number of trained Physical Health Education Specialist Teachers as expressed by a school Principal “In times past, schools had at least one or two [PHE teachers] but now If you go to ten schools, I don’t think you can get more than two PHE teachers in all the ten schools” Key Informant from a Public Secondary School. This finding according to participant had a detrimental effect for the delivery of PHE and the implementation of programmes to improve PA in schools.
Limited opportunities for continuing education for PHE teachers
This was another major prominent sub-theme as reported by the participants. There are limited opportunities for continuing education and professional development. This was due to the low prioritisation of PHE and invariably, those who teach this subject. Teachers for other subjects such as English and Mathematics more opportunities for continuing and professional development compared to PHE teachers as expressed by a school principal “schools are very poor in staff development programmes because we believe seminars and workshop are not for PHE teachers, we just pick [choice] subjects. We hold seminars and workshops for Mathematic and English teachers, but for PHE teachers, we don’t” (Key Informant from a Private Secondary School).
Lack of PA equipment and facilities
In most public and private schools, the delivery of physical health education classes was compromised due to the lack of equipment and sporting facilities, large student population without a corresponding number of PHE teachers as captured in this quote “Most schools lack the equipment “(...)" look at this school for example, since we’ve resumed this term, we have not had any PHE lesson, we don’t even have a PHE teacher” (FGD Discussant in a Private School).
Limited availability of gender specific equipment and facilities for PA
Another pertinent factor identified as contributing to the low physical activity level of females is the limited gender specific physical activity facilities and equipment for sporting activities. Specific sports which female adolescents prefer include badminton, table tennis etc. but these are limited: “why girls are not fully involved in PA? “(...)" it is because the facilities for the sport activities which girls like are costly. Girls enjoy sports such as badminton but the equipment are expensive “(...)" we can engage them to be active but we don’t have equipment for them [girls]. They also prefer table tennis which will not roughen their bodies [make them look rough] but these are expensive” (FGD discussant from a Public School).
Increased time devoted to the theoretical concepts rather than the practical PHE sessions
Another major prominent sub-theme noted was the limited time for PHE classes. According to the respondents, the duration for each PHE classes was 40 min and there was more emphasis on the theoretical concepts than the practical sessions as expressed by a FGD participant from a public school “the students take physical health education classes from Junior Secondary School 1 to 3. But they do more of the theoretical sessions than the practical and it is the fault of the government and the school administration” Also noted was the fewer number of periods per week for PHE classes compared to other subjects “the periods are not similar to what we have for subjects like Mathematics. If Mathematics comes up five times in a week, PHE may be once” (Key Informant from a Private Secondary School).
Poor financing of schools
Financing was a major factor and sub-theme identified as limiting the availability of facilities and opportunities for PA in schools as illustrated by a Key informant in a public school in fact let me tell you, “(...)” when you admit a student to the public school, they pay an annual tuition of N630 ($2), out of that amount, only 50 naira ($0.14) is allocated for sports. This is insufficient!
Poor attitude of school stakeholders to PHE delivery
Compounding the problem is the poor attitude of teachers and school heads towards the delivery of physical health education and this was a major sub-theme. Some Teachers and school principals see PHE as a waste of time and are of the opinion this can be diverted to other subjects. Due to this, they are disinterested and don’t want to invest in the delivery of the subject: “some School Principal and Teachers believe physical activity /physical education classes is a waste of time ... the time that the students spend jumping about and doing all those PA can be used for other meaningful subjects. At times, even we [Teachers] will say, what is Physical Health Education /PA? this is not necessary “(...)“ We also say what is ‘jumpology’? (a derogatory term for Physical Health Education) (scoffs) it is not necessary, we believe that Mathematics, English, Chemistry are important subjects but when it comes to PHE we believe it is not necessary and it is not important and that is why many schools don’t want to invest in it” (FGD Discussant from a Private Secondary School).
Poor social support from teachers
The participant also reported poor social support from teachers for leisure physical activity in school. This they attributed to more interest in academic activities such as reading as well as the dislike of physical exercise: “many teachers, they hinder and prevent the students from being active. Teachers usually prevent them and tell them to go and read even when it is time for them to do physical exercise. So many teachers think that reading, reading and reading only will help students”. This view was supported by a key informant who strongly expressed her dislike for physical activity stating that “if I see any opportunity where the student can be taken away from the field back in classroom, I would support such, you understand? I don’t like sports” (Key Informant from a Private Secondary School).
Poor implementation of regulatory guide for the delivery of PHE
Majority of the respondents also expressed that despite some regulatory guides for the delivery of the PHE curriculum, the school management decide how and if they want PHE delivered in schools. It is easy for the schools to decide not to offer PHE since they know the parents place low value on the delivery of PHE compared to other subjects as expressed by a participant: “the laws are there, PHE is compulsory, it is there but the parents, the school management [school authorities] and the society has already decided on what is paramount [i.e. other core subjects like mathematics and English] and what is not paramount [other subjects like physical health education]”(FGD discussant from a Private Secondary School).
Opportunities for physical activity promotion in schools
This theme summarises the extracurricular opportunities for the promotion of physical activity during school hours which include the assembly grounds, break time, after school and inter-house sporting competitions as well as the implementation challenges experienced with regards to these. All these sub-themes featured prominently in the data on the opportunities for physical activity promotion in schools.
Conduct of school assemblies
With regards to school assemblies, the respondents in public schools expressed that PA through this avenue is no longer possible. This was due to a policy directive from the Oyo State Ministry of Education to stop the conduct of school assemblies due to security threats as expressed in this quote: “We’ve cancelled it [the School assembly] “(...)" we now conduct class assembly [where] they will pray, sing the national anthem, national pledge and the school anthem. Afterward, the normal class work will commence so we don’t have physical activity or sporting activity during that period” Key informant from a Public Secondary School. However; private schools still utilise this opportunity as expressed by a key informant “On Monday for instance we were on the assembly ground, we danced for an hour, acrobatic dancing, so we consider physical activity on the school assembly as being very important” Key Informant from a Private School. This constitutes a missed opportunity for the promotion of PA in public schools.
Break time which is another feasible opportunity for PA has been severely constricted due to the introduction of new subjects which expanded the curricula and competing academic time. This presents a challenge to public but not private schools as stated in the quotes below “I observe that the private schools have two break times - short break and long break, then it used to be the same in the public schools. However, we only have one period for the break “(...)" because we have so many subjects “(...)" some of these subjects are not useful” FGD discussant from a Public Secondary School.
After school sessions
After school sessions can also help promote PA behaviours, however this opportunity is not explored due to the unwillingness of teachers to supervise activities during this period resulting in increased risk of accidents as expounded in this quote: “immediately after school hours we expect them to leave the school compound and go home, we don’t want any casualties. Even during school hours, we have problems keeping an eye on them, several times they have fractured hand, broken legs and so on” (FGD discussant from a Public Secondary School).
A participant shared an experience where participation in PA after school resulted in a causality: “we had an experience sometimes ago. After school, the students arranged to go and swim. They went to the deepest part of the river and unfortunately, we lost the student. We always ensure that students leave the schools immediately just because of that experience” (FGD discussant from a Public Secondary School).
Inter-house sports competition
Inter-house sports competition which holds potential for galvanising school-wide interest in PA was identified. According to the discussants in the private schools, inter-house sports competition hold yearly or every other year but the frequency of its conduct in public schools has reduced drastically due to lack of funding and the aftermath crisis associated with the failure of losing teams to accept defeat in the spirit of sportsmanship as expressed in this quote: “most of the principals do not like conducting inter-house sports competition, during the inter-house sports competitions, students usually fight, that is the reason why most of the schools are not interested in the event”(FGD discussant from a Public Secondary School).
Finally, of import is the negative impact of the poor road network, increased accident risks and government policies on the conduct of marathon and cross-country races as reflected in the quote below: “previously before the inter-house sports or during the time of inter-house sports, we usually have cross country race but that is no more due to government policies and because of the poor connectivity of the road “(...)“ It’s not safe” (FGD discussant from a Public Secondary School).