The month of February has hosted the final of the African Nations Cup, whose champion has been Ivory Coast. And how does this relate to St. George School of Madrid? The story is as follows: Tom Maclure, professor at Saint George School had the unusual idea of carrying out with his pupils a study about Africa y poverty, seen through football. The students found out, like in the majority of the cases-luckily not in every case- the teams of the African champions are those with the biggest further development and economic power.
From there, they decided to invite Red Deporte in order to carry out several awareness activities on poverty, development and to show how sports can become a tool for the youth development. These high school students made in the previous days some interesting murals about sports in Africa, which, in addition, are a beautiful and colorful decorative element in the classrooms. These youngsters also showed an excellent attitude and interest about the causes of poverty and the North-South inequality. We interviewed Tom Maclure to comment upon the activity.
How the students have welcomed the idea of studying our world through football in Africa?
To begin with, the boys especially were motivated by the idea of selecting and representing a country that was participating in the football tournament of Africa (AFCOM 2015). They wanted to ´own´ the big-name countries that were expected to do well in the competition, like Ivory Coast, Algeria, Ghana and Cameroon, so that they would be seen as victorious within the class amongst their peers… boys hey! However, the problem was that not all of the ´big names´ had qualified, like Egypt, Nigeria, and Angola, also, Morocco had withdrawn, so there were not so many ´big-names´ left to go around all the boys!
Both the girls and boys got more interested when they had to find out how well-ranked their different countries were in terms of development statistics, another competitive element for them, and it started them all thinking about the purpose of our project: To consider and explore whether development levels might affect the success of a country in international sporting competition. In the end though, it was the girls who sustained their interest better, because they were more motivated by the presentation aspects of the project - both visually and conclusively - and so how well or badly their country did on the football pitch, mattered not nearly so much to them! The boys, in contrast, were either loud or silent in class depending on their country´s results on the field!
To which extent has been interesting and fun this experience to students and teachers?
I think greater interest in discovering and learning more about some of Africa´s countries was one major achievement. Also, recognizing and appreciating, that access to education and good health care, acknowledging democratic rights within society and having consideration to gender equality, are privileges that we take for granted here within Spain in comparison to Africa, was also acquired and considered by the students.
Being able to explore and investigate geographical issues through a familiar medium like Football or the Fashion industry, or sporting events in general (eg. the Olympics/World Cups) enables students to relate better to the topic and to thus tap into their personal interest and self- motivation levels more easily. Thinking about other cultures and other people ´s lifestyles in comparison to their own also helps them develop more empathy and a greater sensitivity in the future. As a teacher, it´s fun to see your students self-motivation one another within a project group and enjoying geographical exploration, just because their own curiosity and desire to find out and produce more, stimulates them and spurs them on.
What have you enjoyed or attracted your attention the most about this activity?
The students really enjoyed hearing about the difference in sports facilities and sporting opportunities in Zambia during Carlos's presentation. They were surprised and quite 'shocked' to hear of the limited amount of sports equipment and sport and activity time that children find time for in their day, especially boys and girls who have to care for younger siblings. The students loved seeing and touching the home-made footballs and seeing the photos of ´African-style' hockey equipment and African sports grounds. I am sure it will motivate them to raise some funds for equipment at the ´City of Hope´. They also appreciated learning more about the problems of Malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV, through Carlos´s PowerPoint and his own personal experiences and stories. It opened their eyes and they are now really enjoying researching and exploring the Sport and Cooperation Network and Conectandoafrica.org websites to investigate the microprojects!