Three primary schools in Northern Malawi now have their own footballs, volleyballs, netballs, pumps and nets for the first time! This is thanks to the support and initiative of the Switzerland-based Herrod Foundation, generously collaborating with Signal. The balls and equipment will be used and enjoyed by no less than 4,000 children enrolled at the rural schools.
Any extra-curricular activities at schools will always be welcome, but this initiative is particularly special. It was welcomed with a “day of distribution” attended by hundreds of children, families and community leaders. The youngsters were eager to show off their ball skills there and then, and mums and grandmas too!
The project has been designed as a way to encourage integration, through shared playtime and sports activities, between deaf and hearing children at primary school. It is intended to give these children the chance to grow up without barriers between them caused by communication difficulties or lack of understanding about deafness. This can only help the deaf children’s confidence grow.
The project is also aimed at reducing school absenteeism and, in addition to the enthusiastic welcome by the children, families and communities, the local Ministry of Education officials are also very supportive. “It motivates our learners to attend school every day and their performance will also improve,” one official noted.
The primary schools taking part in the initiative have already embraced the deaf awareness and communication training delivered by Signal’s partners in Northern Malawi. The head teachers and staff have taken forward the ideas in the training, showing their commitment to inclusive learning. The schools cater for all children in the area aged six years and upwards, both hearing and deaf.
We will be following some of these children to see the results of the initiative for ourselves, so keep an eye on our news page. Thank you once again to the Herrod Foundation for making all of this possible!
Sport and inclusion across continents
Signal trustee, Martin James, was delighted to learn about this particular project, because of his long-term personal involvement in community development at Shrewsbury Town Football Club in Shropshire. Martin underlines the value of this type of initiative for children with special needs, whether in Europe or Africa.
“Engaging with children who have a disability is challenging and rewarding at the same time. At Shrewsbury Town Football Club, through the work of its charity, the Community Trust, the staff provide opportunities for youngsters to enjoy participating in sporting activities. Our work has included football sessions for children with physical, sensory, learning and behavioural difficulties. The common goal for them is to enjoy the activity, gaining in confidence, motor skill development and, for some, developing socialisation skills.
“Children in Malawi with disabilities are no different from those in Shropshire in that they will have a desire to be able to play and achieve the same as able-bodied children. Sport is a fantastic vehicle for participation, whether youngsters are actively engaged in skill routines, matches or even in supporting from the sidelines. Football, on and off the field, generates a sense of belonging, a passion shared with others, a level playing field of support for your team, whether at school, local or national level.
“Give a child a football and whatever their ability they will find a level of enjoyment in play. They will smile!”