Edusport: using games to improve the Jamaican educational experience

The game is Ball Tag. Two teams at Newcombe Valley Primary are lined up on a large field, facing each other with a ball positioned squarely in the middle. Coach Williams bellows out a spelling question. Two boys from opposing teams sprint towards the centre.

They hover closely over the ball, eyeing each other through jerky grabbing attempts, until one quickly snatches it. His team screams in excitement. “Run! Run!”

He makes a mad dash, but his competitor is in close pursuit and he gets tagged by a loose tap on the back. He returns to the middle, ball in hand, to answer the question.

“G-E-N-R-O-U-S!” he shouts.

Cupping one hand to his ear, Coach Williams replies, “Are you sure that’s correct?” The student’s team mates huddle quickly, whisper loudly, and in seconds one of them offers the right answer. There are loud cheers and big grins.

Coach Williams, backed up by Coach Parchment, leads the game for another exciting half-an-hour, covering challenges in spelling, social studies and math. This is EduSport, a weekly session of games-based learning reaching over 1,200 students in rural St. Elizabeth. The programme was designed by BREDS/Treasure Beach Foundation and is implemented with support from UNICEF.

Trained coaches Garry Williams and Enricko Parchment have been delivering EduSport for three and four years, respectively. While their core work is to teach the EduSport curriculum, their weekly visits have become more than fun learning, and they have become more than just instructors.

“The coaches are very nice, and they really take the time out to teach us,” says ten-year-old Newcombe student Nickar Dennis. Parchment is Nickar’s favourite coach. “He is loving and he cares for us. He doesn’t let you get into trouble.”

“We create a bond with the children,” says Coach Parchment. “Just by talking with us, they develop this sense that they can talk with adults, and that builds their confidence. They realise they don’t have to be shy.”

“What we find is that a lot of adults in their lives don’t listen to them,” explains Coach Williams. “EduSport helps to improve their communication, self-esteem, self-confidence – these are qualities most of these children are lacking. Often, in their lunch periods we sit and talk with them about many things that their parents don’t have time to talk with them about. We listen, and we give advice.”

Newcombe Principal Andre Burton values this benefit to his students. “Many of these children don’t have the positive adult-child relationships they need. The coaches are role models for them, and this impacts them quite a bit.”

Nyanda Crawford, another ten-year-old at Newcombe, looks forward to sessions with the EduSport coaches every week. “They always ensure that no one is left behind,” she says.

“They keep a check on us, they keep us protected. And they help us to work together, to all be one.”

She tries to sum up her favourite coach in a word. “Coach Williams… he is active.” Other words follow quickly. “He is patient. And he is g-e-n-e-r-o-u-s.”

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