By Adriana Ermter
"When you're a teacher, it's very important that children trust you," says Jean-Damascene Hagenimana, a teacher, Coach, Coach Evaluator and Trainer with Right To Play in Bugersera, Rwanda.
"Otherwise they will be scared and they won't to come to school, which means they won't learn about healthy behaviours, like hand washing and hygiene and they won't live a good life."
According to Jean-Damascene, before Right To Play came to the farming community in 2009 and teachers like him received our specialized training, more than 50 per cent of kids between the ages of six to 16 years didn't attend school. Almost all of them were ill or had to stay home to take care of their sick siblings.
"Sickness was very common," affirms Jean-Damascene. "They didn't know that washing their hands before eating or after going to the bathroom would prevent disease."
According to UNICEF, diarrheal disease kills 20 per cent of the children who die in the country each year. Since the 1994 genocide, Rwanda has become one of the poorest countries in the world with two out of every three people living in poverty. Over 40 per cent of the population does not have a toilet and 25 per cent do not have access to clean and safe drinking water. It's 100 per cent of the reason we've integrated our programming into the local, education system.
Incorporating Quality Education
We work with schools to provide quality education that includes and extends beyond teaching children how to read and write—we're engaging them to learn health-based behaviours to prevent disease. By training teachers like Jean-Damascene how to interact with the children through our unique education-based games, sports and activities, we're improving their skills and knowledge. The games make learning these important life-saving messages, like washing your hands with soap and clean well water to prevent diarreal disease, fun and easy to remember.
Through repetition of the games, the children gain confidence and are empowered to put their newfound skills into action, while reflecting on their past and identifying ways they can work together to improve their home life and their community infuses the children with a sense of accomplishment. Particularly when they notice they are no longer becoming ill.
Playing is Good Health
"The children have so much fun playing the games," says Jean-Damascene. "They like running and cheering and helping each other. They are no longer scared of their teachers because we play with them. And the best part, they've taught their parents and friends how to wash their hands too, so no one is getting sick anymore."
In 2015, Right To Play launched the Play for the Advancement of Quality Education (PAQE) program with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada. Active in eight countries, PAQE uses Right To Play's experiential learning methodology to build teacher capacity and remove barriers to education to improve learning outcomes.
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