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Using Soccer to Improve Literacy

Right To Play will connect its unique sport-based methodology with community libraries to enhance life and literacy skills for refugee youth

Photo of Ross Edgeworth
11 19

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Education challenges in Dollo Ado are vast. 95% of children have never received formal education and a lack of youth vocational training and recreational activities has compounded youth apathy and disenfranchisement. To respond to youth needs, Right To Play (RTP) will establish reading corners in youth centres, providing a venue for children and youth to gain life and literacy skills, delivered through peer-to-peer education. Trained youth volunteers will be supported to hold daily reading clubs, therefore giving children and youth with basic literacy skills the opportunity to participate in structured educational activities to practice, strengthen and value these skills. These sessions will be supported by twice weekly sport and games activities focussed on literacy and life skills (including physical, emotional, social and intellectual skills as a foundation for broader learning). Central to both reading and sport activities will be the use of Right To Play’s reflect-connect-apply (RCA) methodology. RCA allows learners to examine their experiences, enables them to relate these experiences to what they already know, and to formulate plans to use that learning in the future


This project will serve girls and boys between the ages of 12–18 who live in two refugee camps across Dollo Ado, a small town in south-eastern Ethiopia, located two kilometres from the Ethiopia-Somalia border. Right To Play’s activities promote full participation and include girls, children from minority groups, children from host communities, and children living with a disability.


1) Right To Play will hold consultations with refugee youth committees who manage youth centres across targeted camps in Dollo Ado. This will identify youth coaches involved in RTP’s programmes and interested in running reading corners. Community sensitisation campaigns will be held to raise awareness of planned reading corners amongst children and youth. 2) Identified youth will be trained in RTPs core methodology (strengthening life and literacy skills), so they can facilitate RCA discussions during reading clubs and can support children and youth to access literacy resources in reading corners. Before the procurement of books, life and literacy focused sport activities will be organised in youth centres to build momentum and interest in reading. This will enable RTP to validate the need for structured educational activities and will establish child and youth commitment to and appreciation for reading/learning once reading corners are established. Identified youth will also receive training in reading corner management including: management and documentation of materials, providing effective services and communication. This will also include the development of guidelines for reading material procurement to ensure books are culturally and contextually relevant 3) Consultative meetings will be held with the Refugee Central Committee, Administration for Refugees and Returnees Affairs and UNHCR to seek buy-in and to ensure joint efforts in planning, implementation and M&E.


RTPs work in Dollo Ado is designed and implemented with local community input, including children and youth, to ensure contextually appropriate programming. Our staff are rooted within the community and are therefore critical to the success and relevance of the programme. During an RTP assessment in 2013, youth expressed the need for improved support systems and structured activities to combat idleness and boredom. Reading corners will directly respond to this need. To date our sport and games focused on life skills development have been well received by children and youth. Youth trained in sport for development, planning and management are mobilizing other youths as actors of change, helping them to disseminate messages on early marriage and conflict resolution to their peers. This self-driven response to challenges in their community represents an opportunity for sport and games to be used as tools to address education challenges. With training and mentoring youth will support children and youth with basic literacy skills to actively participate in reading clubs to strengthen these skills. This will develop a sense of achievement and an appreciation of the importance of literacy skills amongst children and youth, thus encouraging them to engage in structured educational activities. To ensure the smooth implementation, scale up and sustainability of reading corners, detailed discussions and consultations will be held with ARRA, UNHCR and the District Education Office.


There is no provision for life and literacy skill development for children and youth aged 12–18 in Dollo Ado. Establishing reading corners is therefore a unique idea, which responds to needs and fills a gap in existing services. Reading corners will ensure greater accessibility, as opening times will be decided mutually between beneficiaries. Establishing reading corners in youth centres where RTP already implements activities will facilitate links to our sport and play-based approach ensuring that: literacy activities will be responsive to learning styles; will spark interest in reading amongst target beneficiaries and; will contribute to wider programming focused on youth development.


Right To Play would use support from Amplify to create a sustainable service for refugee children and youth who would not normally receive any provision for literacy and life skill development. Product support is required to help guide the layout of the reading corners to meet beneficiary needs in terms of design, size and seating arrangements, ensuring reading corners are optimized and accessible for all children and youth. This process will also involve input from children and youth. Funding would help procure reading materials, support the training of volunteers in RTPs sport and play-based methodology, and support costs associated with regular activities such as sport materials.


Reading corners will be established in existing youth centres and will be equipped with locally sourced reading materials, thus eliminating the ongoing challenge of infrastructure and delays that would result from procurement from other regions. Materials will also be procured using clear guidelines on content (developed in consultation with stakeholders) to ensure that reading material is relevant and culturally sensitive, and does not perpetuate negative cultural and religious traditions such as the exclusion of girls. In doing so, RTP will ensure that its core principles of child protection, gender equality, inclusion and community engagement are upheld throughout the project.


Reading corners is a new component of RTPs programming in Ethiopia. Our current intervention in Dollo Ado is focused on child and youth development, life skills and enhancing quality education through sport and play-based activities. This project will bring together our child/youth development work with our education programming to provide non-formal structured education activities. The assumption is that social mobilisation events will attract interest amongst children/youth to participate in reading corners. This will be tested by adding literacy activities to our existing programming to create a link between life and literacy skills with existing beneficiaries, determine interest in literacy skills and inform the structure of social mobilisation events. The project will be tested in one refugee camp before scaling up to the second. Testing will focus on building interest in reading corners, the relevance of reading corners, developing reading material guidelines and identifying culturally sensitive reading materials. Through play students can apply what they already know to new learning situations in fun and meaningful ways. Play provides an excellent and non-threatening opportunity for students to learn, demonstrate their skills/competencies and improve literacy skills. The approach gives children/youth the opportunity to discuss, challenge and discover ideas, recognize patterns, solve problems and create solutions. It also encourages students with different abilities to participate in learning. Football and volleyball are the most popular sports in Dollo Addo. Existing volleyball clubs (girls, boys) will be engaged, thus introducing literacy skills to existing life skills activities. Traditional games will also be used. Skills such as critical understanding and comprehension, gained on the playground through sport and play support children/youth as they engage in activities to strengthen their literacy skills. Sport and play helps students to develop thinking skills and to connect ideas and concepts to written words. It acts as a bridge between formal written language and the meaning of those written symbols. It also provides an avenue for children and youth to try new vocabulary and exercise their imagination. Accessibility will be contextualised to users’ needs in each reading corner through peer-to-peer interventions, promoting positive masculine attitudes to encourage female participation and installing ramps for improved accessibility.

SKILL SHARE (optional)

Right To Play can offer guidance to other youth-focused organisations in the use of sport and play to enhance life and literacy skills amongst refugees. We can share how our RCA methodology, can be used as a reflective exercise in reading and other youth-focused initiatives. Through this project Right To Play seeks to build an evidence base for the use of reading corners in a refugee context, and collaboration with organisations to consider the relevance of this approach in development settings.


This project would be implemented by Right To Play in Dollo Ado, two kilometres from the Ethiopia-Somalia border. As a result of famine, drought and insecurity, populations from Somalia have sought refuge in Dollo Ado which hosts the second largest refugee population in the world.


  • Yes, I have implementation capacity and am interested in and able to make this idea real in my community.


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Photo of Rahul Savani

how can you related this soccer thing to peer to peer learning effectively?
literacy level is not so high in such places where you targeting so how can it be done and also i wanted to ask if such thing can really help people who can't get enough of education. how can other be inspired do such things in their country or places where they feel this should be implemented to improve the life?
thank you

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