While taking learning outside the classrooms, this organisation helps children from lower income group groom their personality and hone their social skills, writes Mridul Negi
Coming from a conservative community, Zaya and all the other girls her age, not only had to wear hijabs at all times but were also barred from playing any outdoor games. With the help of a small non-profit organization called Just for Kicks, she now wears studs and aims to put the ball in the back of the net.
It’s not just her, leading by the example, she has also managed to change the mindset of her friends and family to free other girls like her, from the mindset of her community. As a result, this community now has an over 50-girl representation in the game.
This is how ‘Just for kicks’ is not just breaking the vicious cycle of overburdening academic education, but is also changing the antiquated social traditions and helping children grow into responsible adults all the while setting examples for others.
Just for Kicks
“Already based in six Indian cities, Just for Kicks aims at developing key life and social skills that increase the employability of the children in the future,” tells Karen D’Mello, Head of Marketing and Communication, JFK.
She says, “We believe that children develop life skills at a very young age and in order for them to achieve that, they need to be pushed towards it. We are only using football as a medium to do that, teaching these students important life skills like teamwork, communication, respect and empathy.”
Our education system primarily focuses on the academics. This is what the co-founders of Just for Kicks, Vikas Plakkot and Neha Sahu realised during their time at Teach for India. They noticed, as of academics, their programme was doing fine; however, it couldn’t instil the key social and life skills into the students’ mind.
Teaching through Football
“As a Football fan himself, Vikas took the students outside for a game and before he knew it, the students were playing competitively with other classes. Instead of the conventional education system, through the game, the students were learning these skills on their own,” told Karen.
This coined the idea of this alternative medium of teaching. The game of Football gives these students a passion in their lives, something they want to do themselves. They develop leadership qualities and learn to take responsibility for their actions. Not only that, the games have also shown a positive impact on the academic performance of the students. They are more driven and focused. This programme is helping these students, not just in academics, but all aspects of their lives.
Playing games, these students become more disciplined, wake up early in the morning, help at home and finish their homework on time. This causes an overall development of students, be it their personality or otherwise.
Not Just a game
At JFK, there is a core team of 14 people, who have worked towards building this programme. They have developed their own curriculum, which they take to low-income or local government schools, where there are underprivileged students.
“We start at the age of six and continue with the students until they pass out of school. What we try to do is, make sure these students stay in school and they develop life and social skills so when they get out of school or colleges, they are actually employable. Some of our students are also very serious about their game. They practice a lot. We even organise a league, not unlike the IPL, where people can buy and train their teams for the JFK League,” Karen continues.
A number of scouts have also chosen some of the students for further training and programmes. Just last year, Sujal Kahar, a seventh-grader from Sai Baba Path Educo School, Mumbai went to Russia after he was selected for the ‘Football for Friendship’ programme in St Petersburg.
As this is one of the first attempts to train students for upcoming aspects of their life in this way Karen admits there is a little scepticism about their methods. Regardless, people welcome their programmes in their schools and parents encourage their children to take part because they have seen how positively creative mediums affect children, she adds. “You have to understand, apart from their academic life, these students don’t have much exposure to anything at this point. They belong to low-income families and don’t have much to engage them. There is so much personal development and life skills involved in a simple game of Football. It’s almost impossible to explain just how many tiny elements there are to it,” she says.
One of our students has even started his own organisation to help the children in his village develop these skills, said an overzealous Karen. The student she was talking about is Manoj, who came to JFK in 2011 when he was performing poorly in his academics. After completing his coach certification with JFK, he started coaching out-of-school children and conducting Football leagues.
Janak Bahaddur, proud parent of Samrat (a JFK student) says, “As a result of this programme, I’ve seen many positive changes in my son’s life. He’s definitely become more confident and more than anything, our entire family has united behind his achievements.”
According to their official website, by 2025, JFK hopes to skill a million children with their comprehensive program. However, they don’t want to rush things either.
“Instead of expanding to different states, we are developing within the cities. Of course, we want to work with as many children as possible, but we don’t want to compromise on quality either. Therefore, we are sticking to the cities we are in, although pilot projects may start in other cities as well,” explains Karen.