Schools with no playground lose the race
Educational institutions in the city lack play area and trained physical teachers
CHENNAI: Absence of a playground and lack of qualified physical education teachers — these are but a few problems faced by schools in the city. But, it is sometimes the sheer ignorance that comes in the way of sports being accorded the place it rightly deserves as an integral extra-curricular activity.
“Most people do not recognise the importance of sports in character building,” said K Ramesh*, a physical education teacher with a private school in the city. “Even some teachers dismiss it as something that must be done if there is extra time. No. It is an activity that must be pursued daily. It is important to have a fit mind and body.”
The Directorate of Matriculation Schools has stated, “Adequate play area should be provided as part of the school complex or very close to the school. In Corporation or Municipal areas, managements may secure permission to use corporation or other playgrounds.” However, barring exceptions, majority of schools that do not house a playground, do not have tie-ups with other grounds to carry out their physical training classes.
“The need for a playground and qualified physical training teachers is a basic child-centred demand that we have been fighting for,” said educationist Prince Gajendra Babu. “The Right to Education Act does not specify that there will be a trained PT teacher for primary sections which means the government also has no policy. Even for those schools that do not have a playground, it has been mandated that they use community playgrounds.”
The stress-busting abilities of playing a sport or engaging in some physical activity is well-known. However, it was peculiar to find that many a time it was the parents who stopped their children from pursuing physical activities. “We have parents coming up to us and saying ‘why don’t you use the time for games to do some revision tests’,” said the vice-principal of a school on the condition of anonymity. “We are among the few schools that has a playground where we encourage children to play. We have a designated games period in the morning. We have had parents sending in letters that ask for the children to be excused from playing, and we find their children studying when they should be running and breaking into a sweat!”
Absence of a playground in schools is not the only problem, lack of adequate space to play in apartments is also a challenge. “My son loves to play cricket, but we have one narrow driveway in the apartment and that is the only area where children can play in. Since cars are constantly whizzing past, they cannot have an uninterrupted game,” said Meenakshi Jain, who lives in a housing complex in Sowcarpet. “Playing on the road is not an option. So, I take him to the beach every Sunday where he plays with his friends.”
Sports for health
The growing issue of obesity, lazy lifestyle and unhealthy eating habits can only be combated with promotion of clean eating and exercising. “Many children do not have space to play, which then leads to health issues,” said Dr A Somasundaram, secretary of Indian Academy of Pediatrics, Tamil Nadu Chapter. “Children do not burn the extra calories as they tend to stay indoors. This can lead to many long-term complications.”
He went on to add that another oft-ignored benefit of playing outside is the exposure to the sun. “A lot of children and adults alike have vitamin D deficiency,” he said. “Sunlight is the only source of vitamin D and it is imperative to absorb it between 10 am and 2 pm.”
While the UN is propagating sport as a means for development and peace, it seems like the first step for schools in the city is to recognise physical training as a legitimate part of the curriculum *Name changed on request