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Chiara Pasquini

Education Researcher (Sports for Development)

Chiara joined the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti in February 2020. She focuses on conducting education research on Sport for Development. Prior to this, Chiara worked at Innovations for Poverty Action and other research institutes on impact evaluations of education, governance and access to finance projects in Uganda. She also worked as consultant for the World Bank Gender Innovation Lab on evaluations of different projects about women empowerment in Ghana and other African countries, and for Columbia University on a project about reduction of the worst forms of child labour in Ethiopia. Chiara’s expertise is in research design and implementation, coordination of field activities and data collection and analysis. She holds a BA and MSc in Economics from Bocconi University in Milano.

Publications

COVID-19: How are Countries Preparing to Mitigate the Learning Loss as Schools Reopen? Trends and emerging good practices to support the most vulnerable children
Publication

COVID-19: How are Countries Preparing to Mitigate the Learning Loss as Schools Reopen? Trends and emerging good practices to support the most vulnerable children

Some countries are starting to reopen schools as others develop plans to do so following widespread and extended closures due to COVID-19. Using data from two surveys and 164 countries, this research brief describes the educational strategies countries are putting into place, or plan to, in order to mitigate learning impacts of extended school closures, particularly for the most vulnerable children. In addition, it highlights emerging good practices.

Blogs

How sport can help keep children engaged during COVID-19: Innovations South Africa
Blog

How sport can help keep children engaged during COVID-19: Innovations South Africa

  This blog is part two of a series highlighting innovative responses to COVID-19 from S4D organizations. UNICEF Innocenti is conducting research on S4D in collaboration with the UNICEF- FCB and Barça Foundation partnership.  The first blog  in the series discussed innovative responses S4D organizations have taken  globally to adapt to the crisis. In this blog, we focus on one country, South Africa – which sets itself apart as a lower-middle income country with the highest number of S4D organizations. This blog explores the challenges faced in South Africa’s unique contexts and different responses to them.South African ContextSports for Development (S4D) is a key strategy for engaging children in South Africa.  A mapping exercise conducted as part of the Getting into the Game research programme initiated by Barça Foundation and UNICEF identified 265 S4D organisations operating in South Africa, many of which are implemented during or after school hours and use schools to reach young people.   On March 5th 2020, the first confirmed case of the COVID-19 was registered in the country and on March 26th a national lockdown, including school closures affecting over 14 million children, was announced by the President of the Republic. The latest phase of the lockdown in South Africa began June 1st, allowing easing of restrictions on movement of people and the reopening of schools. Even with the phased incremental reopening of schools, S4D organisations implementing programmes in schools depend on the guidance of the government in order to resume or continue S4D programmes.   This blog looks at eight organisations, five of which are implementing programmes supported by UNICEF South Africa and Barça Foundation as part of the UNICEF-FCB and Barça Foundation partnership. Each organization has responded to the crisis with some form of remote delivery. Table 1 reports basic information on the organizations and summarizes the responses. In addition to the remote delivery of S4D programming, some are also providing health information and support to other programs.  Remote engagementOrganisations have found innovative ways to keep coaches and participants engaged through activities conducted on social media platforms and WhatsApp. Grootbos’ coaches have maintained contact with beneficiaries through WhatsApp and Grootbos, Altus and PeacePlayers South Africa (PPSA) continue to provide support to coaches through videos on Social Media platforms and Zoom. The Department of Basic Education has launched a Facebook Live and Zoom Webinar Series on dialogues with young people around Covid-19 and School Based Violence (SBV), it also has regular WhatsApp based Covid-19 related dialogues, and has conducted a #StayHealthy, #StayAtHome fitness series via WhatsApp and Facebook. MAVU asked staff, volunteers, and their ambassadors to create and submit videos of themselves doing an activity whilst at home using equipment at their disposal; the videos were then disseminated across multiple social media channels.  PPSA has also been conducting twice weekly Zoom sessions where participants engage in team building, leadership, and basketball activities. It has also been disseminating these activities through social media and  keeping in touch regularly with participants and parents via WhatsApp and other social media platforms. “This experience participating in the Child Protection Week Webinar that dealt with Child Safety during Covid-19 was very informative and humbling as I got to understand that various children from various backgrounds have different struggles when it comes to the impact of the coronavirus and the lockdown.- Participant of GBEM programme To maximize reach and ensure equity, these organisations have also been helping their beneficiaries to access this remote programming. Grootbos, not being able to reach all their normal programme beneficiaries, has set up a free WIFI hotspot in the centre of the Masakhane township community. Altus has purchased data so that their leaders could attend their Zoom training workshops, PPSA has fundraised to buy data and airtime for participants, and UTS has provided high school learners with internet and computer access through their office, two EdTech centres, and through the purchase of data and airtime.   UNICEF leveraged its partnership with SuperSport broadcast platforms, the media and partners at its disposal to broadcast Covid-19 Public Service Announcements (PSAs) across the SuperSport Channels.  These PSAs are a means to support the amplification and reaching young people with critical of Covid-19 messaging premised on (1) children’s safety; (2) hygiene and social distancing practices; and (3) continuation of learning using different platforms and reach out to peers for support. United Through Sport created resource packs that go out with their food parcels and an interactive television show that is aired every afternoon on a local free to air television station which they will continue after the lockdowns ends. Most organisations highlighted that the lack of access to data and devices restricts participation of learners and sometimes coaches, especially the most vulnerable. This makes remote programming a challenge and raises equity concerns. “I have been able to send them pictures of some topics that we did in our Mbewu Life Skills books and videos of what they can do at their homes with family members and I really helped them a lot in a way that they will call maybe after two days saying they want another chapter their done with the one I gave them (…)- Fulltime volunteer coach at Mavu Sports  Furthermore, for many organisations the lack of prior emergency experience, coupled with capacity limitations has made adaptation a difficult process. This, together with the uncertainty around the duration of school closures and lockdowns, has encouraged many organisations to invest in digital training and speed up the regular processes of innovation and adaptation. As the recovery from this health and economic crisis is likely to last long after the re-opening of activities in the country, it will be crucial for S4D organisation to adapt programming and its delivery to the “new normal” and investing now in innovating and adapting programmes can help build resilience for this and future crisis. Are you part of an S4D organization? How has COVID-19 affected you? How have you responded and what have you learned? Please email us at cpasquini@unicef.org and tell us more about it. Chiara Pasquini is a consultant at the UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti currently conducting research on the effectiveness of Sport for Development for Children globally. Ayanda Ndlovu is an Education Officer specializing in Sport-for-Development and Youth Engagement at UNICEF South Africa. Artur Borkowski is a consultant at the UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti currently conducting research on the effectiveness of Sport for Development for Children globally.
How are sport for development organizations keeping children healthy during COVID-19?
Blog

How are sport for development organizations keeping children healthy during COVID-19?

This blog explores how Sport for Development (S4D) organisations have responded and adapted their programming to support children during the COVID-19 crisis. S4D organisations use sport as a tool to catalyse positive change in the lives of children, youth and the communities they live in. Interviews with S4D organizations, conducted as part of the ongoing research commissioned by the Barça Foundation and UNICEF partnership, revealed that organizations are innovating to adapt to the current crisis through three key interconnected practices: Continuing to support children through remote sessions, with coaches providing guidance for physical activity along with content to accomplish a variety of social goals.Providing critical and accurate health and COVID-19 information through coaches, who are in many cases trusted individuals in communities.Supporting their staff in helping other programmes, such as feeding programmes, while sports activities are closed.What is Sport for Development?Sport and physical activity are fun, effective and engaging means to improve many areas of children’s wellbeing including physical and mental health, empowerment, learning and life skills that are essential for success in school, life and work. For instance, one review found positive associations between physical activity and academic performance in 79% of the studies it assessed. The Kazan Action plan highlights the role sport can play in improving children’s lives, and outlines the commitment of multiple governments to make sport part of the solution to achieving the SDGs. S4D organisations come in various forms – from those that build social programmes around sport, to those that include sport as one of many approaches to achieving their goals. Approximately 1 in every 500 children worldwide takes part in a S4D initiative and almost every country hosts some S4D programmes (see map). How are organisations responding?S4D organizations create safe spaces where children can feel protected from violent and difficult contexts and where they are free to express themselves, away from social norms and expectations that communities can have for boys and girls. These activities take place in schools, community centres, and outdoor spaces. Social distancing measures have meant that organizations have had to stop their regular programming taking away these safe physical spaces and adapt both delivery modalities and content to respond to the crisis. Continuing to support children through remote sessionsMany S4D organizations are going remote through online, but also through broadcast media. The Barça Foundation, in Spain, has adapted its sessions for marginalised youth to take place online: coaches lead children through physical exercises remotely replacing their usual football match (See Figure 2), and moderate group discussions, before and after the exercise on life skills and values. This provides socio-emotional support through play and continues healthy routines which can be critical for mental health during uncertain times. The Barça Foundation is working on alternative ways to deliver these sessions so they are available to participants without access to internet, acknowledging that access to technology is not a given for many children around the world as explored in a recent research brief on remote learning. [caption id="attachment_2569" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Figure 2[/caption] COVID Focus: Providing critical and accurate health and COVID-19 informationAs part of their response, many S4D organisations, are adapting their content and developing innovative ways to help spread the word about good practices during COVID-19. Grassroot Soccer (GRS), who uses football as part of a curriculum on sexual and reproductive health, has developed an open-source COVID-19 curriculum that debunks myths around COVID-19 and promotes healthy behaviors. Sessions of this curriculum can be adapted to be implemented in person, respecting social distancing, or remotely and include physical activity (e.g. stretch, dance, game) components in place of the usual football (See Figure 3). This curriculum has been released withtips for coaches facilitators and caregivers, translated into 4 languages and is being used by several organisations in Africa. Various other open-source activities and curricula can be found here. [caption id="attachment_2570" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Figure 3[/caption] Organizations are also turning themselves into reference points for health information by sharing correct and updated health advice with communities. For example, TackleAfrica has been sending health content to its coaches in 12 countries via text message. CoolPlay and YouthWave are using WhatsApp and radio to stay in touch with programme participants, provide psychosocial support and healthy behavior tips. As trusted members of many marginalized communities, coaches and S4D organizations can have a critical role in providing health updates and fighting misinformation. Supporting their staff in helping other programmesOrganisations have been helping in other ways, CoolPlay gave their staff’s time to support feeding programmes and the Barça Foundation provided in kind support to the families of the beneficiaries. Laureus Sport’s Informal Sharing Community meetings. This fits with the actions that sport organisations more broadly have taken. Football clubs in Europe have launched support drives to help others in need in the community, offered places for medical staff to stay, donated money to health services, and started helplines. In Spain, FC Barcelona has ceded the title rights to Camp Nou for the 2020-2021 season to the Barça Foundation to raise money for research in the fight against  COVID-19. As shown in the Getting into the Game report, sports can have an outsized impact on a child’s wellbeing, from children’s health, to life skills like leadership and teamwork, to learning outcomes. S4D organizations are working hard to adapt to the current reality, and are making important contributions to the communities they operate in. Post COVID-19, the global community should make sure that the commitment made to using sport to improve the lives of children, remains integrated into plans to build healthier, safer, and more inclusive societies.   Are you part of an S4D organization? How has COVID-19 affected you and how have you responded? Please email us at cpasquini@unicef.org and tell us more about it.