On Friday, 20th April, 3rd year Physical Education (PE) students from the University of Limerick (UL) held the inaugural Equality Games. 6th class pupils from the following Limerick schools – St Patrick’s Boys, St. Patrick’s Girls and the Gaelscoil, travelled to the University campus to participate on the day. The Equality Games sought to highlight Development Education issues through the medium of physical education within net, striking and fielding activities. Development Education is about raising awareness and understanding of local and global inequalities. The event was run in association with The Ubuntu Network, which is an organisation who promote the inclusion of Development Education in initial teacher education.
The day began with icebreakers and a music-driven warm-up, instilling a sense of comfort and community amongst the 70 + primary school pupils. The pupils were split into groups and made their way through a selection of creative and innovative activities and games which were designed by the PE students to highlight different aspects of Development Education. Weather permitted inside and outside activity as the event was set against the backdrop of a gloriously fair day. Groups spent 15 minutes at each activity station discovering the ways in which relevant issues, such as gender inequalities and poverty, affect them and their peers as well as the effects these issues have globally. Students were encouraged to demonstrate their existing knowledge on the issues, and UL students found that these 12 and 13 year olds were quite apt in their assessments of the inequalities found in the world. The events of the day served to heighten and reinforce their existing knowledge. After the end of each activity, the pupils jotted down key take away messages about what they had learned about Development Education through that particular learning experience. At the end of the event, each group had a completed poster, which they presented to their teachers and peers demonstrating what they had learned.
The day was rounded off with a debriefing session and a special guest appearance. Former Irish Women’s Rugby captain and 2013 Grand Slam winner Niamh Briggs was on hand to share her valuable experiences with the young students, answering their eager questions about inequalities in sport between men and women. Briggs, a current UL Masters student, spoke about her experiences as a female athlete and her thoughts on women’s rugby being a non-professional sport, as well as her pride in representing her country. Briggs’ stellar interaction with the visibly appreciative primary school students, teachers, and University students alike was a fantastic close to an important day. Leaving UL with token certificates and Equality Games goody bags, young students carried with them a newfound or reinforced knowledge of global and local inequalities as well as an understanding of how these inequalities might be dealt with.
The event was a fantastic success. Nothing but positive feedback came from the pupils, their teachers, UL staff and most importantly the pupils. They had a lot of fun and learned so much too. Ubuntu Network representative Deirdre Hogan praised the PE students for their efforts, enthusiasm and creativity in highlighting Development Education issues through physical education. The 3rd year PE students worked extremely hard in the weeks leading up to the event and on the day itself. They did themselves, their lecturers and UL very proud.
Development Education is extremely important especially in the world we live in today. Teachers need to be aware of these important issues and how to incorporate them into their lessons. Physical education is a place where students can learn AND be active. The Equality Games is an example of how this can be done and an example of the possibilities in physical education.
Shauna Molloy is a 3rd year student in the BSc Physical Education programme in the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences at the University of Limerick.