“I have changed physically and personally,” says Sarah Mutonyi, a 22-year-old teacher in Rubaga, Uganda. “Right To Play has shown me that I can play and it’s okay to let go and have fun. I am so thankful for everything the organization has shown me about myself and what it will continue to teach me.”
Two years ago, Sarah began her journey as a teacher and Right To Play coach. She was 20 years old and had just received her degree in education. Sarah wanted to work with children because she believes teachers have the ability to inspire, mould and empower their student’s lives. As a new member of the Kasubi Cou Primary School’s teaching staff, Sarah participated in Right To Play’s play-based teacher training program where she learned how to use games, sports and other playful activities as a teaching tool inside and outside the classroom. But merging her formal education with her newfound play-based learning approach proved to be challenging.
“I was uncomfortable coming to the field and participating,” says Sarah, about playing games with the children in the field outside the school.
In Uganda, traditional teaching methods are conservative and separate play and education as mutually exclusive entities. As a former student and as a teacher, Sarah was immersed in this paradigm. Replacing the formal student/teacher relationship with an inclusive one that put play at the centre of children’s learning didn’t come naturally to her and it was only through her students’ love of the activities that she understood how powerful play truly is.
“It’s important because it empowers children,” explains Sarah. “It teaches them about responsibility on the field. It helps them to learn about themselves on and off of the field, inside and outside of the classroom. I am motivated to come and see the impact of the games, and as a result I have become confident in front of my students.”
Now, the happy teacher whose adoring students say “she makes me want to learn,” can’t imagine teaching her lessons without incorporating fun activities into them and has embraced using play in every aspect of her curriculum and in her personality. By putting her student’s needs before her own, Sarah is not only teaching using games, but she has also experienced how games are helping shape children’s lives.
“Play has kept children in school and actually raised attendance,” says Sarah. “They actually enjoy school and learning and I have yet to see a student of mine leave.”
She adds: "Play also improves children’s concentration and performance in class — it relaxes their minds and teaches them in a creative way. They develop an understanding for certain subjects in ways that they can remember, because they associate learning with having fun. Without play, I wouldn’t know how to teach!”
Playing with her students on the field is also no longer a challenge for Sarah and the field has instead, become a second classroom and second home. “My time with Right To Play has been great, wonderful,” says Sarah. “As a teacher and a person I have become empowered.”
Right To Play is a global organization committed to improving the lives of children and youth affected by conflict, disease and poverty.