Koghess school students get the gym of their dreams
The school of Koghes village in Lori region now teaches physical education in a gym fully renovated and furnished through the joint efforts of UNICEF and Teach For Armenia Educational Foundation.
The students of Koghes school, Lori region, are in a hurry to open the door of their new gym. In previous years, it has stood cold, ill equipped, and unused. Physical education classes were organized outside of the school building in warm weather, and when it would get too cold to exercise in the open air, students would stay in the classroom and discuss healthy lifestyle instead of exercising or playing sports.
Khachik and his classmates have been involved in the renovation works, but this is the first time he gets to see the gym in its new, renovated, and well-equipped glory.
“I love sports! I have custom-made metal dumbbells at home and I use them to exercise. Now, I can just train at school,”
The Koghes school has 19 pupils in total. One of them is to graduate this year, and the faculty expects five children to start the first grade in September. There are no extracurricular clubs in the village, so the school is the only center of education and recreation for Koghes’ kids and teens. When UNICEF and Teach For Armenia announced a contest for local impact projects in rural communities, Koghes’ Russian teacher Donara Manukyan submitted at once a draft project she had developed, “Sport without limitations”.
“The project’s objective is to make sport accessible to everyone regardless of their gender, social status, and place of residence. Our school has more boys than girls, and the boys are more involved in sports and other activities. This problem is not specific to Koghes. I am from Vanadzor (the capital of Lori region), and my school there had the same situation. It was rather due to lack of motivation, not opportunity: girls didn’t feel encouraged to exercise; plus, there is a stereotype that sports are not for girls,”
Through Donara’s initiative, the students and other members of the Koghes community have fully renovated and equipped the gym. Physical education teacher Hayk Varosyan is as thrilled as any of his students. According to Hayk, there are no sports schools in Koghes and neighboring villages, so children have access to sport activities only at the regular school. He recalls with deep regret so many students who would have loved to have the opportunity to practice sports and had the talent for it.
“We are trying to help children discover their physical capabilities and work to improve them. Our society maintains a stereotype that sports are for boys, but surprisingly, the attitude is different here, in the small village of Koghes. We’ve had many students who loved sports and wanted to become athletes or at least had an interest in a sport. Our girls are as interested in sports, as the boys. For instance, Mary runs and does pull-ups better than any of the boys, and she can definitely do well in sports,”
Mary, 9, is exploring the new sport equipment next to her elder brothers, going through the dumbbells and rings and checking out the tennis table rackets. When the school gym was in a bad shape, she did her best to exercise at home.
“I love exercising with dumbbells, and when I’m at home, I do push-ups. Outside, I climb trees and use the branches for pull-up bars. I decided on my own to exercise so that I stay healthy, and I love sports too – football, boxing, karate. I watch sports videos on my phone all the time!” said Mary.
“Physical education is equally important for both girls and boys. Team sports help girls to increase their self-confidence, overcome anxiety, and what’s even more important, to set and achieve goals. We know that if children have access to sports at school, they are less likely to drop out and more motivated actually to study. The reason behind this is that sports and active games not only help them stay healthy and more confident but also build up a team spirit in the school and the community.”
While the renovation was underway, the Koghes school held seminars on the importance of sports and organized a meeting with Tigran Kirakosyan, World and Europe champion in sambo wrestling, and Anna Dallakyan, football player. Anna’s story of defying everyone to become an athlete was especially inspiring for the children of Koghes.
Nvard Nalbandyan, 11, is confident that her school will overcome any difficulties. What matters, she says, is to pursue your goals.
“We didn’t do any sports here before. Now, when we have the tennis equipment and things like barbells, we can exercise a lot and become stronger. I love tumbling. For me, it would be perfect to go into a sport like karate to grow strong,”
Apart from physical education classes, the gym is now equipped to host sport clubs and related activities not only for students but also for the community at large in and around Koghes.
The re-opening of the school gym turned into a real holiday for the residents of Koghes. The community put together a training area by the school and invited people from neighboring Yaghdan, Agarak, Lori Berd, and Mghart villages to a competition.