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Interview with Horizon Sport, the reporters of education through sport initiatives in education around the world

Louise Magnard
January 10, 2022

The Education and Solidarity Network met up with Antoine Fournier and Thomas Pascal, the Horizon Sport 2020/2021 team. Over several months, they set off to meet community stakeholders who are using sport as a vehicle for education and social inclusion in Latin America and Africa.

Education and Solidarity Network (ESN): What does the Horizon Sport adventure involve?

Antoine Fournier and Thomas Pascal – Horizon Sport: Horizon Sport is a public interest association that was created by two students from ESSEC Business School (France) in 2013. Its goal is to promote associations around the world that are using sport for inclusive and educational purposes. Since 2013, Horizon Sport has met with more than 40 associations.

Our mission is to offer professional communication tools to projects that need them but which don’t have the material resources or the skills to do it themselves. Horizon Sport produces a pro bono documentary film of 4-5 minutes for each association encountered based on field visits that last between 2 and 4 weeks.

The focus is multi-faceted: to attract new funding and new partners as well as more volunteers through a clear and concise message.

Our aim is also to promote these associations that are using sport in an innovative way. We hope that these projects will inspire other countries and organisations to develop more inclusive and less elitist sport.

Education and Solidarity Network (ESN): You are the Horizon Sport 2020 and 2021 reporters: what education through sport projects have you been able to monitor? What have the participants learned and experienced through doing sport in these associations?

Horizon Sport: We had the opportunity to discover some very different situations, which meant that we encountered associations that each had their own way of functioning and fostered different relationships with the school system.

Amigos Del Mar, which we met with in Columbia in January-February 2020, is an example of an association that operates as a complement to school. It is located on Tierra Bomba, an island in the Caribbean. The level of development there is very weak and there is only one school in the town where it is. The primary school classes only have lessons in the morning and secondary school classes in the afternoon.

This is why the association Amigos Del Mar decided to create a second school. The purpose of “La escuelita de los sueños” (The School of Dreams) is to occupy the children during their free time, to keep them up to standard for school and to increase their awareness of contemporary issues so that they become “agents of change” in their communities. Through additional workshops, the children strengthen their academic abilities and have extra lessons on equality between girls and boys and respect for the environment, among other things. If the children are diligent and serious at “The School of Dreams”, then they earn the right to free surfing lessons. With surfing being the main sport on the island, all these actions are possible because surfing mobilises them and motivates them in the medium to long term.

Novos Sonhos, the second association that they met with in March 2020, acts as a substitute for the government school in Cracolândia, the heart of crack, in Sao Paulo.

Formerly a detox centre, Novos Sonhos has become the education centre for the abandoned or neglected children of Cracolândia. It welcomes 600 children and offers them free school programmes, academic support, sporting activities and meals. In particular, it allows the children to have individual academic supervision with fewer pupils in the classrooms and to do the sports offered by the association: ballet, jiu-jitsu and/or skateboarding.

The teachers are passionate and have been passing on values to the children for more than 10 years. Today, the impact is tangible because several volunteer teachers were once children who benefitted from the programme. Now, they in their turn want to pass on what they have learned.

Other sports associations improve or create motivation in the school environment through strong partnership relationships with the schools, such as Play Soccer Ghana and Terres en Mêlées Togo.

We met up with Play Soccer Ghana in May/June 2021. It has been around for 20 years and is established in 6 regions of Ghana. This association has two main programmes, including the programme “Play for fun, learn for life”. The aim of this programme is to encourage children to participate in sport at least once a week with qualified coaches. It also aims to make young people aware of health and social problems about which they are not always well informed.

It consists of training sessions divided into three sections:

  • time to talk about a social problem (inequality between women and men…) or health problem (AIDS, COVID, hygiene…)
  • time to talk about the benefits of sports and individual and collective sporting values
  • participation in an inclusive football session, with girls and boys playing together.

We then met with Terres en Mêlées Togo in June/July 2021, which is part of a consortium of Terres en Mêlées associations that has existed for 10 years in Burkina Faso, Togo, Madagascar and France. 

Terres en Mêlées Togo operates in schools to train teachers on location in their EDS methodology: Education for Development through Sport. This methodology consists in promoting a sense of community through games of oval ball (oval ball is the name used instead of rugby to avoid the connotations of violence that are associated with it). The game sessions are carried out without physical contact to encourage gender mixing and the development of faculties other than physical strength. 12 schools are partners of the programme, of which 2 are 100% female.

Terres en Mêlées Togo also operates in extracurricular contexts to reach children who do not attend school at all or very little, with the aim of training them to be teachers.

Finally, some associations can sometimes act as new schools, such as Surf Ghana in Accra, which defines itself as a collective of surfers and skaters.

The main goal of the association is economic inclusion of the young people of the collective through involving the young people in all the activities of the association and, in particular, promoting them and linking them with artistic, cultural, fashion circles etc. The young people of the collective also give skateboarding lessons, either paid or free depending on the means of their pupils. 

Surf Ghana has also created Skate Gal Club to develop skateboarding among women, give them confidence, raise awareness of gender equality issues and provide them with a place where they can express themselves freely.

Finally, Surf Ghana is planning to create a skateboarding park in Accra to promote the economic inclusion of the young people of the collective through the creation of numerous jobs.

Through these 5 associations using sport for educational and inclusive purposes, you realise that sport is used in very different ways according to the context: to attract children to school, to raise awareness of modern issues, to create economic opportunities or even to allow them to express themselves and gain freedom… sport therefore has multiple applications!

We notice that when it is used as a learning tool, sport becomes extremely powerful. Coupled with sport, the difficulties of learning fade to give way to their benefits, such as having fun, pushing oneself and exploring new opportunities.

Education and Solidarity Network: Can we expect future editions of Horizon Sport? Where can we find out about upcoming education through sport initiatives?

Horizon Sport: The project ReSPORTERS 2022 from Horizon Sport is currently under construction. It is motivated by the desire to highlight European organisations that are changing the lives of young people in difficulty through sport. Volunteers will set out to discover innovative education techniques being used by educators, which are enabling the development of new pedagogies.

Curiosity, engagement and sharing are the key words of this new edition, which will start at the beginning of 2022 depending on the progression of health conditions.

All the innovative knowledge and methods encountered will be shared on Thursday 20 January at an inclusive sporting event that will bring together young people, our partners and all the people who believe in the values of Horizon Sport and who want to help us become an influential “Act Tank” for sport with a social impact.

These education through sport initiatives will always be available on our networks:

Education and Solidarity Network: Good for you and good luck to the new team ReSPORTERS 2022!

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