Enrolment at schools can be increased through a tin of ghee or any other incentive, but the real change is enacted when the children are guided positively.
“Kick a ball, save the world,” is the idea of promoting the use of sports and play as a development tool for the youth in several districts of Sindh. To honour the idea, its believers, Right To Play (RTP), an international humanitarian organisation, gave certificates to 30 of its head coaches during a Sindh coach convention ceremony held at a gymkhana in Thatta on Tuesday. The RTP delivers sports and play programmes to children and youth living in situations of disadvantage across the world.
The head coaches, who are implementers of RTP’s programmes in schools and communities, were drawn from five districts – Umerkot, Sanghar, Khairpur, Mirpurkhas and Thatta – of Sindh, to share their success stories at the convention.
Believe you can
Breaking down barriers to achieve dreams is not impossible, said Farzana Baloch, who runs a private school in her village along with seven other teachers. Several years ago, she had set out with the belief that the Shia-Sunni conflict in her village could be reduced to a level where it would not even be counted as an issue. Baloch started encouraging her pupils to take part in each others’ religious festivals at the school level.
In the days and years that followed, her belief produced results and now, the citizens of her village in district Khairpur don’t even hesitate in getting married into the other sect. “They never used to attend each others’ religious festivals before we encouraged pupils as well as their parents to do so and they responded well,” said Baloch, “Now, they not only take part in the festivals but are also extending family relations.”
The head coaches have helped people break many of the barriers, previously thought impossible to penetrate. For instance, pupils belonging to different religions, now drink in the same glass hanging around the water cooler in a school in district Umerkot.
They used to avoid shaking hands and drinking from the same glass a couple of years back, recalled a district co-ordinator, Abdul Haleem, adding that the same students don’t even think about such things anymore. “Discrimination has decreased and humanity has replaced religion, caste and creed as the first priority,” said Haleem. “All this was possible through sports and play.”
Through the RTP’s involvement, said Haleem, the unexciting schools have become fun places and the extra-curriculum activities are now considered as co-curriculum activities. “Play breaks barriers,” he remarked.
“We are not sportsmen but, through play and sports, we are trying to develop a community that will play a positive role in society,” said RTP’s country manager Iqbal Ali Jatoi. “Our parents and brothers, who never allowed girls to go outside, now provide us pick and drop facilities,” quipped a head coach proudly. “Participation of a large number of females from different districts in the convention is proof of the change we often talk about,” said Jatoi.
Increasing enrolment through RTP’s activities at schools was the success story shared by many at the event. “Raising the number of students from 250 to 750 was my biggest success,” said a head coach in Sujawal, Imran Memon.
Memon holds a master’s degree in Sociology and used to run a general store before becoming a part of the RTP. He explained that the secret behind the success was community meetings with the parents to make them understand what future had in store for their children if they were educated. “Many of the parents sent their breadwinners to schools. That’s the change I have witnessed,” he smiled.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 12th, 2014.