Laughter echoed from the usually silent park in F-6 where children gathered from the slums geared up in their football attire for a four-day summer camp organised by Right To Play.
Twelve year old Waqas was excited by the initiative. “What we are learning today is not in any of our books,” he said. Daud, 11, said he was extremely happy at getting a chance to play and learn at the same time, while for third grader Tahir, the idea of playing football at school and learning the basics of the game was overwhelming.
Mohammad Ayub, who has run the school for the last three decades, said this was the first time an organisation was encouraging sports in his school, where a total of 270 students are enrolled, 35 per cent of whom are girls and 65 per cent are boys.
While he does arrange a few outings every year, the kids rarely get time to play sports at the school. “This three-to-four-day activity is good enough for the children to learn discipline through sports,” he said.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Aamir Bilal, chief executive officer of Sports Development Foundation — which is collaborating with Right To Play — said that behavioural changes in children cannot take place unless sports are involved. “They have to reflect, connect, physically apply techniques and follow rules. These practices, when applied to day-to-day activities, build the personalities of children,” he explained.
Studies across the world suggest that children are opting for schools with better sports facilities as extracurricular activities make education fun. Unfortunately, that is not the situation in Pakistan. Till-date, we are struggling to boost the culture of sports and lacking sources and sports facilities for our children to learn from.
The Right To Play programme is being implemented in 16 districts across Pakistan and continues to reach over 169,000 children in the country. Ali Khayam, communications coordinator for Right to Play, told The Express Tribune that the objective of the summer camp was to educate and create awareness among important stakeholders in Islamabad about the importance of play as a force in enhancing quality education.
According to the organisation, every week, it helps one million children in over 20 countries to build essential life skills and better futures while driving lasting social change.
The camp, held at the open air school for the underprivileged, is aiming to integrate life skills through play and will continue till August04.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2013.