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Until recently school only meant books and homework for the kids of an open-air school in F-6/3 Islamabad. But now they have discovered a new and exciting way of learning through sport and play. “This is the first time I am playing football, learning game rules and enjoying it more than the lessons in books” 14-year-old Farhat Abbas explained excitedly.
The week-long free summer camp for neglected kids was held at Ayub Park School, managed by Master Mohammad Ayub for the last 28 years, where over 260 kids are studying for free. Master Ayub told this scribe that it was for the time an organization has arranged a play activity in his school. “I can imagine how important it is for kids with little or no resources to remain engage in some kind of physical activity.”
The initiative was introduced by the Right to Play (RTP) in collaboration with Sports Development Foundation (SDF) to provide children with disadvantaged backgrounds an opportunity to learn diverse sports with qualified coaches. Through sport and play methodology, the organizations aim to inculcate basic life skills and overcome the challenges of their environments.
“Football is a great way to develop child’s confidence, and teach him about tolerance, coordination and team spirit” tells Humayun Khan, the coach, who was surprised at the tremendous potential of the child who cannot afford to buy sports kit. “The shy kids soon came out of their shells, asking questions, eager to learn and play more.” Humayun was marvelled at confidence of little Saalar, 8, who learned amazingly. Salaar whispered that his parents never encouraged him to play.
Alongside sports, the sessions of drawing and storytelling were also part of the summer camp. At the end of every activity, there was a discussion facilitated by the coach in which the children are taught to reflect on what they learnt in playground can be applied in life too. “This is the time when they learn to connect playing field lessons to everyday life” explains Ali Khayam, Right to Play’s communications coordinator. The methodology adopted by organization aims to instill life skills such as cooperation, resilience, confidence, hope, teamwork, conflict resolution and tolerance among children.
In modern societies, sports are now considered an integral part of children’s basic education as it is essential for their physical, emotional and intellectual development. The United Nations recognizes play as the right of every child that play is not a luxury; it is a tool for education and health. Sadly in Pakistan, sport and play activities are absent in many schools and are hardly encouraged by most people let alone less privileged ones. The initiative taken at Summer Camp can help increase confidence in students and develop leadership qualities and a positive attitude.