Experts Call for Integration of Sports into Education, Issue Charter of Demands
New Delhi, 29 August 2014: Despite being touted as one of the world’s fastest growing economies, India continues to lag behind in terms of ensuring a healthy environment of play & sports for its children. Millions of children are denied opportunities for play and recreation due to varying reasons like war, diseases, abilities, poverty and lack of recognition of the importance of play and recreational activities. To mitigate this crisis, Butterflies has been running a campaign, ‘Children’s Right to Play’ since 2010 with an objective to bring this issue into the mainstream of national discourse on child rights.
In order to deliberate more on this neglected issue, Butterflies also organised a national symposium on 28-29 August which brought together researchers, policy makers, non-governmental organisations from across the country. Research papers were presented on a variety of disciplines that explored diverse aspects of Children’s Right to Play on themes like the challenges and prospects of integrating of sports and play into education and curriculum; facilities and issues of accessibilities to play & sports; response of state to children’s Right to Play among others. The symposium also witnessed the release of a Story Book on Traditional Games for children and a Charter of Demands on Right to Play.
Lamenting the lack of play amongst children today, Ms.Rita Panicker, Executive Director, Butterflies said, “Playing together provides opportunities for social, moral as well as emotional development hence counts as a vehicle for personality development. In addition to this advantage, play erodes the boundaries of caste, religion, color and gender. We hope our campaign & today’s discourse will highlight this much neglected issue amongst policy makers on the need to have an environment that promotes sports & play among schools & communities.”
The panel discussions & research papers presented during the day brought out important facets on Right to Play.
A research study conducted by Butterflies in 2010 revealed that street, working and vulnerable children in the city are denied access to playgrounds and other recreation facilities. About 80% schools in Delhi have playgrounds of which the upper primary schools have the highest number of playgrounds. The Delhi government has granted land to many schools that do not pay commercial taxes and rents to the government for the land allotted to them. It has been verified during a survey that many of them do not give open access to children after school hours.
The study further revealed that schooling is not yet universal with an estimated 103,643 out-of-school children in Delhi. The debate on integration of sports into school curriculum should also consider this large section of children who are out of school and their right to play.
“Play, recreation and sports are considered to be cornerstones of children’s health and well-being and researchers have found its positive impact on the life of children. Butterflies has conducted research, organised advocacy and sports events and constituted a Working Group of experts on the subject not only to build a memorandum for his campaign but also to claim the spaces such as big stadiums and sports complexes which are not easily accessible for the children of the city”, said Mr. Zaved Rahman, Director, Butterflies.
Echoing the same concern, Ritu Mishra, Program Head, Butterflies said, “The irony is that even we adults do not understand the importance of play in a child’s overall development and its consequences on the future productivity of this country. It is imperative that the government take notice of our Charter of Demands and take immediate steps to integrate sports & play into the education system & social fabric of our country. We need to ensure that every child has access to play & sports and become productive citizens.”
India joins the ranks of countries like USA and UK which are witnessing an abysmal depletion of sports & play facilities like grounds, parks for children which ultimately leads to several health problems among children like obesity, due to lack of intentional or unintentional exercise. Unplanned construction and commercial structures eat up the open spaces while the authorities seem to be indifferent to the necessity of children’s play and recreation.
“Economic development and increased employment opportunities are the most riveting discussions doing the rounds today but the profound question remains that whether these increases are actually ensuring a holistic growth of our children”, added Ms.Panicker.