Access to sports and play is crucial for children’s development. It ensures they can be children, stimulates physical and mental health, and has excellent educational value. Children in rural East Africa grow up in challenging circumstances. They often have additional socio-emotional needs and can benefit significantly from playful learning. Yet sports and play activities are not self-evident for them due to the lack of knowledge of, and skills in, physical education and sports for development at school.
Join for Joy has developed a sustainable program in which primary school teachers in rural Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, and Malawi learn about the power of playful learning. They obtain the knowledge, skills, and tools to successfully integrate sports and play into their education and are trained to create a safe, inclusive, and gender-equal learning environment at school. The sports and play activities within the program help to develop life skills such as resilience and self-confidence. In addition, teachers discover how they can discuss social issues, which are often taboo, with children and parents/caretakers.
Children playfully learn to protect themselves against diseases such as HIV/AIDS and to deal with issues such as gender inequality, physical and sexual violence, addictions, and child marriage. Inclusiveness is central to the program, and teachers discover how they can empower every child. Girls and children with disabilities are no longer put on the sidelines but are actively involved in the classroom and on the sports field. In this way, children develop into resilient community members and build a positive future perspective.
“Because Join for Joy's intervention becomes part of the school system, Join for Joy has achieved the sustainable impact it strives for.”Impact Specialist, Avance Impact
My Space Game
Everyone gets their own circle and tries to decorate it with the materials that are scattered around the field. If you leave your circle, you run a risk: other children can tag you, and then you must put one of your collected items back on the field. Other children can also steal items from your circle. This game teaches children to create and guard their own safe spaces.
A relay race is a perfect way to discuss taboo topics such as gender equality and menstruation. The challenge is to write down a word that comes to your mind and has to do with the topic as quickly as possible. The game is also popular during regular classes. In the photo, children are practicing math. Which team is the fastest and solves the most sums correctly?
Bad Habit Run
Kids try to get across the field without getting tagged by the ‘bad habit tagger’. Once you are tagged, you become part of the bad habit and get to tag the others too. Teachers use the game to discuss alcohol and drug use, (unsafe) sex, skipping class, and bullying. It is easy to encounter bad habits and the more people involved, the more difficult it gets to avoid them.
Two teams try to be the first to reach the other side of the field without touching the ground, by, for example, using stones, cardboard, and twigs. If a team fails, the whole game starts again. Dealing with setbacks, planning, collaboration, communication, and trust are central to this game.
“Not only does Join for Joy increase children's interest in school, the program also helps to reduce social issues in communities such as teenage pregnancies, early marriages, domestic violence and alcohol and drug abuse.”Javira BirungiSports and play coordinator Uganda
Community involvement is crucial
Parents/caretakers and other community members often get invited for sport tournaments or other sports and play activities in school. This way, community involvement gets stimulated and the information woven into the games spreads throughout the entire community. In addition, teachers are trained to effectively set up parent-teacher meetings to discuss urgent social challenges, such as drug and alcohol abuse, child marriages, hygiene, and the importance of sending children to school.