Wednesday 26 June 2024, 20:00

The launch of Football for Schools in Uganda under the banner of passion and transmission

  • Football for Schools programme launched in Uganda 23-25 June

  • 56 per cent of the country’s population aged under 17

  • Focus on inclusion, child protection and fight against discrimination

Education is vitally important for any nation’s development, especially when the country in question has one of the youngest populations in the world. It was with development in mind that Football for Schools decamped to Uganda on 23-25 June. The fact that no less than 56 per cent of the Ugandan population is under the age of 17 – a statistic second only to Niger – poses a massive challenge for this inclusive programme, which seeks to make the game more accessible to young people by incorporating football activities into the education system. Such undertakings are nothing unusual for F4S, however. The vast majority of FIFA’s Member Associations are now familiar with a project that needs little introduction. It has even added a few strings to its bow this year by bringing safeguarding, child protection and the fight against discrimination into its remit. These themes were tackled in depth at the Football for Schools workshop on skills reinforcement held at the Njeru Training Centre on 23-24 June, which brought together 50 male and female PE teachers from across Uganda. Among them was Maurine Makunga.

Aged 21, this educator - who is also a South Sudanese international player - is the perfect symbol of both the great mission that falls to them and the immense passion that drives them. Some have travelled thousands of kilometres, while others have made real sacrifices to be present at this crucial event. Maurine Makunga, a former South Sudanese international working at the Oasis primary school in Arua, travelled across the country to take part in this F4S event. However, her absence would have been entirely justified: she is expecting a happy event! "I'm here for football," she says, just a few months pregnant. "I thrive on this kind of activity. I wanted to be part of this group. It's important to me to learn, to improve and to acquire new footballing skills, whatever they may be. So I convinced my doctor to let me go.”

FIFA Football for Schools - Uganda

And she has no regrets: "This programme has given me an enormous amount," she adds. "I've learnt how to give young people confidence, how to train them in the best way. I also learnt a lot about the right approach to take : For example, I integrated the idea that there was no point in getting upset, for the simple reason that we were talking to children! The two-day training workshop comprised theory and practical sessions led by Antonio Buenaño Sánchez and Alberto Giacomini, the idea being to make all 50 participants Football for Schools ambassadors. The PE teachers will then be in a position to train their colleagues and thereby create a snowball effect that will see the programme extend to Uganda’s eight regions.

As well as generating a lot of excitement and enthusiasm, the initiative also creates hope. FUFA has made it a priority, affording it a prominent place in its Technical Action Plan 2023-2030, while the Ugandan Ministry of Education and Sports is also heavily involved in ensuring this major project delivers on its goals. “The programme is about training teachers to ensure children at our primary schools – both state and private – are trained in football skills and learn the basics at a young age,” said Sammy Odong, Assistant Commissioner for Sports at the Ministry of Education and Sports. “The idea is to have stars for the national team in the future. That’s what we are here for and we pray that this programme will go on.”

“Football is a strong sport, one that everyone watches all around the world,” commented FIFA Chief Member Associations Officer Kenny Jean-Marie. “But it’s not only a sport. It’s also a social thing. And, with football, we know we can impact young people’s education. The purpose of this programme is for every youngster in every school in Uganda to be able to access education through football.” In total, 362 Ugandan schools will take part in the initial roll-out phase, in support of which FIFA will deliver some 62,260 balls. “We are partnering with FUFA and providing balls and an education app to help teachers teach education, health, climate change and basic skills through football,” added Jean-Marie. “Whether it’s 1v1, 2v2 or 7v7, we can make the game an effective education tool. This is the goal.” F4S received its official Uganda launched at Njeru on 25 June, with 120 children playing small-sided games as part of a fun yet educational event that saw a lot of goals scored, not least the one Jean-Marie is pursuing.