THE Just Play program in Vanuatu has inspired children to play sports to help them grow and stay healthy at all times.
On Friday last week, more than 50 pikininis gathered together at Port Vila Municipal stadium to participate in different kinds of activities that Just Play organised.
Just Play project manager, Rorona Kalsakau, said that it is ideal for all children to go through physical education as it has an educational impact.
She said sponsors of Just Play like UNICEF encourage children to be involved in sports.
She said that when children involved themselves in sport, changes can be seen in skills development and their general performance.
“It will also impact through their education and will show the positive relationship between being involved in physical activities and psychosocial development.
“One of the main focuses of UNICEF in sponsoring children in sport is to make sure that parents must understand that sport and physical education is fundamental to the early development of children and youths and the skills learned during play, physical education and sport contribute to the holistic development of young people.
“Through participation in sport and physical education, young people learn about the importance of key values,’ she said.
“These include honesty, teamwork, fair play, respect for themselves and others and an adherence to rules.
“It also provides a forum for young people to learn how to deal with competition and how to cope with both winning and losing. So it is best for children to start practicing the feeling of winning or losing the games at a young age.
“These learning aspects highlight the impact of physical education and sport on a child’s social and moral development in addition to physical skills and abilities.
“In terms of physical and health aspects of child and youth development, there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that focuses on the (mostly positive) effects of sport and exercise on physical health, growth and development.
“UNICEF always addresses to all children that physical education and sport also build healthy activity habits that encourage life-long participation in physical activity. This extends the impact of physical education beyond the schoolyard and highlights the potential impact of physical education on public health.
“To achieve broader goals in education and development, sports programs must focus on the development of the individual and not only on the development of technical sports skills.”
Ms Kalsakau stressed that while UNICEF continues to help support the Just Play program in the Pacific and Vanuatu, the physical benefits of participation in sport are well known and supported by large volumes of evidence.
“Sport is an attractive activity for young people, and is often used as a draw card to recruit children and young people to health and education programs,’’ she said.
“Sport and development projects that focus on educational outcomes use sport as a means to deliver educational messages to participants, and spectators in some cases.
“Additionally, some programs aim to promote and develop other aspects of education such as school attendance and leadership. Sport does not inherently provide positive educational outcomes. Much of the literature emphasises the crucial role of physical education teachers and other providers of physical activity and sport as determinants of educational experiences.”
She said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), for example, is using sport and play programs to encourage young people, particularly girls and young women, to attend school within refugee camps across the world.
In addition, UNICEF has a strong focus on using sport to campaign for girls’ education, promoting education through events and awareness campaigns.