By Danika King
Nestled on the edge of the Nakivale refugee camp in Western Uganda resides a special haven for 1,600 elementary school children: the Nakivale Primary School.
Not all of these students look alike or even speak the same language. Most aren’t from Uganda. They’ve fled their countries, some in the middle of the night, to escape political unrest, war, violent ethnic conflict, famine and drought. Many should be in secondary school. But they all meet here daily for their lessons and, more importantly, to play.
Since 2010, our play-based programs have been an integral part of the school’s curriculum and all 35 of its educators are trained in our unique activities. Games support peace. Teamwork supercedes conflict.
Now, “when the children have a problem they know they can report challenges to their teachers,” says Sylviah, the school’s Headmistress. “They don’t have to fight.”
By empowering the teachers with the right skills to create a child-friendly teaching environment, the children have new role models and are learning new and sustainable behaviours, like trust and acceptance, how to stay healthy and gender equality. They feel safe in the schoolyard and are excited to come to class.
“The games are important to me,” affirms Marie, a 15-year-old Congolese refugee who arrived in Nakivale in 2011. “Everyone gets to play together.”
Marie loves playing with her classmates and has learned important life lessons, like the importance of hand washing and hygiene, through each activity. Now a Junior Leader, Marie helps teach our games to her peers. Proud of her leadership role, she has goals of finishing school and becoming a doctor.