The importance of play and physical development while recognized as crucial for child development has been lost in the educational institutions and even more so in underserved communities where there is often unofficial attention to didactic education. According to a government report, the dropout rate at the secondary school level in India is more than 17%, while the dropout rate at upper-primary (VI to VIII) and primary level is 1.8% and 1.5%.
The lack of focus on sport and play has been attributed as one of the singular most important causes of poor school performance and subsequently children dropping out.
By 2030, India is expected to have a youth population of 726 million which will constitute people aged below 30 years. However, the current levels of physical inactivity are worrisome and will lead to this promising segment of the population being afflicted by an array of diseases reducing its ability to generate positive outcomes. This status quo demands correction of the state of affairs for holistic youth development. The integration of sports can help alleviate these issues.
Active participation in sports becomes even more important for girls as they lack the confidence and self-esteem to take up new challenges. The constant struggle faced by girls in the socio-cultural setting where they are considered lesser than their male counterparts cause a detriment to psychological well-being and stunted personality development. Students have historically learned about teamwork, goal-setting, striving for excellence in performance, as well as other achievement-oriented behaviors through sports, which are essential abilities for success in the job. However, lower participation of girls in sports has led to a lack of competitiveness amongst themselves which makes them not sought after for a job. It's no coincidence that 80% of Fortune 500 female CEOs had participated in athletics.
Sports and physical activity for children could be connected to outcomes such as character development through fair play, good self-esteem, improved physical and mental health, and a sense of community and teamwork, according to several leading studies around the world. All of these characteristics lead to an improved learning environment. It is now universally accepted that childhood is the best time to instill positive attitudes and behaviors.
Our project, EduKick, uses sports to not only teach life skills to children in schools but also to increase educational outcomes associated with subject-based performance. The project thereby aligns with SDG 3 - Good Health & Well-Being, SDG 4 - Quality Education, and SDG - 5 Gender Equality. The program was conceived and designed organically as a response to the urgent need for better learning outcomes for children in primary schools in Nagpur which was realized by our organization’s CEO Dr. Abhijit Barse after he read an article in TOI that discussed how primary level children in Government schools are unable to even apply simple concepts in Math. The article further pointed out that this phenomenon is a result of overcrowded schools, under-motivated teachers, and children alongside various other factors.
A number of games were designed and then trialed in Kamptee, Nagpur where the organization had always been active. Kamptee is predominantly a Muslim-dominated area where girls are rarely seen outdoors. The subject-based games were trialed on primary school girls for almost 4 months. At the end of this period, it was felt that the games are too long and boring. However, despite that, some visible changes were noticed and recorded. The girls had become more vocal, expressive, and talkative than their earlier shy and hesitant selves.
Upon renovating the project with the available feedback, the approach was changed and made more nuanced and focused. Games were designed based on the specific learning requirements of children. A preliminary Math and English test were conducted in select schools among select children to understand their level of learning in these subjects. After that, games were designed to make children pick up basic mathematical concepts through football-based fun games. The program now uses a sports kit with relevant equipment that is required to run a session. The kit has been improvised too and redesigned over the years. So far, 40 sessions for the first phase of intervention have been designed and 20 coaches have been specifically trained for conducting the sports sessions in overall 40 schools. The sessions are conducted during the physical education period in schools and are usually for a period of 40-45 mins.