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London’s legacy reaches rural Indonesia

© 2012/UNICEF/Estey
A student balancing on a pair of coconut shells

The schoolyard of primary school SDN29 in Ureng, Bone, in Indonesia’s South Sulawesi province is some 13,000 kilometres from the Olympic stadium in London, but it's just as full of sporting excitement.

At its sports fields, barefooted students from two competing teams run while balancing a pair of coconut shells in a race that involves turning over the most number of plastic plates. Their friends shout and cheer in support.

Elsewhere in the school complex, children are moving about on stilts and various other contraptions, making clacking, thumping and rolling sounds. There are the terompah, a pair of long pieces of wood with three foot straps on each side. Groups of three walk around on the clunky footwear until someone in the group loses coordination, causing the giggling students to tumble to the ground. There is also a mini three-wheeler made of wood with wheels made from old luggage.

This thriving scene of physically active children is a recent development, according to teachers and parents. Last year, the school’s Physical Education teacher was trained by UNICEF in partnership with International Inspiration, the official international sports legacy programme of London 2012, to teach sports for development through games and modified sports equipment.

The training has had a drastic impact on the school. “A lot of kids used to skip school a lot; some only came twice a week,” says Nurdin, who has led the school since 2004. “Since we implemented the programme, attendance had gone up - kids actually like going to school,” he adds. “It makes my job easier.” The training has changed the way PE teacher Nur Akbar leads his class. “Before, I had them do the same thing for warm-ups: they would do marching and stretching like the military, and running around the sports field.” “Now we play games like ‘Turning over Cones’,” he explains, referring to the race his students were doing in the class earlier. The games usually start in a simple way and, as the children warm up, progress in intensity and skill level, typically with the tasks getting more complex or with the use of more tools.

As the students prefer to run barefoot, Akbar usually has them scour the field for rocks or sharp items before they take off their shoes. All the sports equipment are made by the students and their parents, including bats for kasti (a baseball-like game) and ping pong, bean bags, cones and markers from colourful plastic cups and plates, and used water bottles.

Asides from these typical sports equipments, SDN 29 also employs some props used in traditional children’s games such as bamboo stilts, coconut shells, and the terompah. The coconut shells are inspired by a local game called majekka, in which children race on a pair of coconut shells that are connected to each other through a string, which they pull to enable them to move about.

“These games had existed here for a long time, but we learned in the training that we could use this for sports,” Akbar says. Indeed, the majekka, terompah and bamboo stilts are a hit among the students, who play them even during recess. “I like walking on stilts and coconut shells because it’s challenging, and walking on terompah because it requires us to concentrate and work with each other,” explains 12 year old Indra Anugrah.

This new enthusiasm for sports has made their parents more supportive of the children’s sporting needs. Muhammad Yahya, whose two girls attend the school, says when he found out that the school had made a new pair of futsal (five-a-side soccer) goals, he offered his skill as a soccer player to coach its club. Getting everyone involved At Madrasah Ibtidaiyah 48, an Islamic primary school in Pajekko, parents did not just partially fund the construction of its sports field, they worked together to build it. But PE classes do not have to be out on the field. On days when the weather doesn’t allow any outdoor activities, the students conduct physical activities in their classrooms.

This morning, PE teacher Tamzil leads his 5th grade students to clear all the desks to the side, so they can begin a game of “Treasure Hunt”, in which students race to collect as many plastic cups in the room. He divides the students into two teams by having each of them draw a card. “One of the most helpful aspects is learning simple things like this, which is how to divide the teams equally and fairly, so no kids feel marginalized,” Tamzil says.

Tamzil has also learned to reach out to children with special needs and who may be less abled. One of his students with a disability in the fourth grade had previously been too shy to join the PE class. “She was so shy she wouldn’t even leave her classroom,” he recalls. “So to get her to move, I started out by rolling a ball back and forth with her in the classroom. Eventually I could get her to leave the classroom, and join the PE class by observing her friends, and drawing or taking notes of them,” he explains.

Although the girl is still shy, she has begun to participate in PE class, he says. Mrs. Samsidar of Bone’s Office of Development Planning and in charge of the sports programme in the region notes that sports can be an effective platform to teach children how to socialize and work with others. It is also a great medium to deliver messages such as those on HIV/AIDS or on the danger of narcotics, she says. “This programme has awakened us from a long slumber. Before, physical education was not at the top of our concerns, now it has become a priority,” Samsidar says.

Since its inception in mid-2011, the training has involved teachers, coaches and leaders in 50 primary and secondary-level schools, community learning centres and sports clubs in 9 sub districts in Bone, one of the poorest parts of Indonesia. Head of Bone’s Office of Education Taswin Arifin is positive about its bigger impact. “These activities are not just focused on enhancing achievements, but also on how to develop the kids into healthy, bright, skilled children with character and integrity,” he says. Characteristics, it should be noted, worthy of any Olympian.

 

 
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