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Smiling children are running left and right, bouncing off the walls inside a community centre in downtown Kingston, where energetic primary school students are enjoying ‘Edusport’, a games-based way of learning that is spreading across Jamaica.
“This looks like it’s uncoordinated mayhem going on, but it’s not,” says their coach, Alphanso Spencer. “It’s actually Edusport: numeracy, literacy, mathematics-based games for kids to learn and have fun at the same time.”
Spencer serves as Community Coordinator in Parade Gardens, downtown Kingston for Fight for Peace – the organisation that runs Edusport in Kingston as part of its UP Programme supported by UNICEF.
Growing from roots in Treasure Beach
Edusport was developed by the Breds Foundation, which introduced it to rural schools in St. Elizabeth. With UNICEF support, it then spread to 58 schools in that parish, 57 in Manchester and four in Westmoreland – reaching some 22,000 children weekly. Breds is now working with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information to prepare for the training of all Jamaican physical education teachers as part of a national rollout.
Edusport coaches use a manual, which includes a wide range of games that focus on building life skills, including some that teach children about mosquito-borne illnesses and road safety. “Bowlathon,” which you can see demonstrated in the video below, teaches numeracy. All of the games are designed to teach children teamwork, coordination, discipline, and equally important, to build their confidence.
Positive change in Edusport children
Fight for Peace recently added Edusport to their UP Programme, which uses martial arts and psychosocial support as tools to help children recover from and avoid violent situations. Violence can often derail children’s education, but Spencer notices a positive change in them when showing up with their exercise books to Edusport sessions, currently held after school in Kingston.
Better concentration, discipline, teamwork and signs of improvement in their school exercise books are among the benefits he has noticed.
“So it’s a great thing to have in schools!” he says.
Coaches trained in child protection
“Edusport’s game-based learning model not only encourages health and wellness but the development of critical and creative thinking skills. For children without fathers, coaches like Alphanso can also be much needed positive male role models,” says Rebecca Tortello, UNICEF Education Specialist.
“Coaches often find themselves in a position of even greater responsibility than their job title suggests, which is why all Edusport coaches were included in the Fair Play Child Protection Training for Coaches by the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and UNICEF, that has trained sports coaches in Jamaica how to protect and listen to children in their care.”