The Right to Play Comes Alive in St. Elizabeth
KINGSTON, 17 April, 2013 – A large, grassy playing field in the hills of St. Elizabeth, a rural parish in southern Jamaica, is alive with palpable energy. A group of students from Epping Forest Primary jump to their feet, clapping wildly and shouting in chorus. They are cheering on a bowler and a batsman in an electrifying game of cricket.
Eleven-year-old O’Brian is riveted, watching closely as he waits for his turn on the sidelines. “You see how exciting this game is?!” he squeals, before running off to take his turn at the bat.
Two years ago, these students never played cricket during school. Like most children in rural Jamaica, they had very limited opportunities for physical education. Schools in the area lack trained instructors and structured opportunities for sports and play.
Armed with coaching licenses and a deep passion to bring sports into students’ lives, St. Elizabeth residents Victor Ebanks and Alan Roper decided to change this. Together they developed EduSport, a comprehensive sports programme to deliver structured physical education and life skills for students at the primary level.
The EduSport methodology is designed to build key life skills, boost school attendance and aid in classroom learning. Younger children participate in activities and games that help with basic numeracy skills, like counting. Older students have more structured programmes that include football, netball, cricket and athletics.
The coaches infuse EduSport sessions with opportunities to teach listening skills, discipline, teamwork, self-esteem building and conflict resolution. They develop close bonds with many of the students, and have become mentors for several children.
“I like how the coaches treat us,” says ten-year-old Epping Forest student Ayla. “They do not bark at us. They let us have fun, and train us to bat and to play well, not to hurt each other.”
Fellow student Kemar, age 11 echoes a popular sentiment. “I feel very good about the programme. They teach us to try new things. The coaches are very nice and calm. They help us to be more physically active.”
EduSport is now delivered by a team of six trained coaches in 7 primary schools and 2 basic schools in St. Elizabeth. The programme operates with support from the BREDS Foundation and other partners, including UNICEF. BREDS, run by Jason Henzell, provides a rangeof recreational and sports opportunities for children in Treasure Beach and surrounding communities – including the area’s first Sports Park and Academy.
“I love what I do,” says Coach Ebanks. “I decided to be a coach for this very reason – for the kids, so they can have what I didn’t have. We are filling a gap in their educational experience, and making sure they learn the technical skills of sports from a young age.”
School principals and parents have welcomed EduSport. “When the children do physical education, they come back more relaxed and receptive,” says Mrs. Elliot, Principal of Mayfield All Age. “We are getting more out of the children. Because of the programme, they are more ready to learn.”
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