We #Play2Learn with The LEGO Foundation to help children build critical life-skills and shape a better future.
In rural Morogoro, Tanzania, Farida, 30, a teacher at one of the local schools uses play-based games to teach life skills such as cooperation and teamwork, and it’s positively impacting her student’s attitudes and behavior.
“The children ask questions and remain attentive throughout the activity; they are disciplined and easy to manage, even when it is a large group,” says Farida. “The games are opportunities to practice leadership, build self-esteem, and demonstrate confidence, respect and discipline.”
But Farida doesn’t do it alone. With more than 200 children per class at the Duthumi Primary School where she teaches, Farida is dependent on the support of Junior Leaders.
The Junior Leaders, 16 of them in this school, between the ages of 9 and 12, regularly help teachers to roll out games and other play-based activities in what are often overcrowded classrooms. Their own leadership training, all delivered through play-based activities, equips them with skills, which they in turn, share with their peers.
“With such large numbers of children at school, the Junior Leaders are valuable supports for the teachers. They are active, confident and have high self-esteem, qualities that they model and transfer to other children,” explains Esther, another teacher at the school.
Working alongside teachers and coaches, these young leaders volunteer to participate in training sessions that aim to develop their confidence and leadership. They develop their skills by planning, implementing and evaluating fun sports-, games- and play-based activities for their peers. They train by playing teamwork-oriented activities, such as rounds of football and tag to develop collaboration, cooperation and confidence. Ongoing group discussions and constructive feedback prepare them to be able to communicate and instruct others with confidence.
Outside of the classroom, the Junior Leaders also organize advocacy campaigns addressing challenges that young people are facing in their communities, participate in community forums and engage in decision making. Their active input and participation is improving community attitudes towards children as valuable, credible and competent contributing members. This is especially impactful for young women and girls who are often undervalued and unheard.
There are now more than 90,379 Junior Leaders — 54 per cent of whom are girls — actively engaged in these programs around the world. Here, in Tanzania, there are 7,380 Junior Leader clubs across the country and the numbers are growing, with levels of truancy having dropped simply because children enjoy school.
“The children come because learning and having fun are similar,” says Esther. “Also, discipline has improved; we can see the children changing each other for the better in their interactions on the playground.”
Now, despite the challenges they face from teaching hundreds of children in one class, the teachers at the Duthumi Primary School are confident they can move forward with the Junior Leaders by their side.
“We are role models for teachers in other schools,” says Esther. “Parents have noticed and they prefer Duthumi because it is the only school in the area that offers this unique approach to learning, so they choose to send their children here.”