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UNICEF joins British Council for Nigeria launch of school sports programme inspired by Olympics

ABUJA, 26 July 2010—In a ceremony at the National Stadium today, UNICEF joined the British Council to launch the Nigeria component of International Inspiration, a UK-led school sports development programme inspired by the 2012 London Olympics. Nigeria is the twelfth country to launch the programme, which aims to reach 12 million children in 20 developing countries worldwide through the power of high quality and inclusive physical education, sport and play.

In Nigeria, UNICEF is implementing International Inspiration with the British Council, the Federal Ministry of Education and the National Sports Commission in three states (Lagos, Kano and Sokoto) and the Federal Capital Territory. They will bring additional funding and their technical expertise to train teachers, develop training programmes and materials, refurbish school sports facilities, and train community members, including young people, to organize and coach young players.

UNICEF is a strong supporter of children’s right to engage in play and recreational activities (Article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child). Research shows that school sports enhance child development, boost school enrolment and retention, enhance learning and achievement, encourage teamwork and build leadership skills. After-school sports programmes can bring girls, out-of-school children and children with disabilities into a learning environment; they can bring communities together for other development initiatives as well.
But for school sports to score these goals, children have to be healthy enough to get to class and receive good teaching when they get there. Good sanitation facilities and hygiene practices in schools, regular deworming, and malaria prevention and treatment protect children from energy-draining and even life-threatening disease.  Adequately qualified and trained staff and a child-friendly school environment—as well as properly maintained and equipped sports facilities—create the conditions for children to reap the benefits of sport.

“Sports can play an important, complementary role in the health and educational development of children,” said UNICEF Deputy Representative in Nigeria, Jacques Boyer. “It is something that the Nigerian National School Health policy recognizes and supports, and it is UNICEF’s hope that parents and caregivers will too.”

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