Children at eight Wesleyan Primary Schools across Tongatapu, Tonga have become the latest inductees to the OFC Just Play Programme.

Just Play Programme Manager and Head of Social Responsibility for Tonga Football Association, Palu ‘Uhatahi-Tu’amoheloa, said the schools are now five weeks into the 16 week programme and school principals as well as teachers and children are already providing encouraging feedback.

‘Asitamani ‘Ahomana, Toloa Primary School Principal said: “From what I have experienced as a teacher, I can see how badly children are listening in class. Since the programme started, I can tell that children’s listening is really good”.

“When I see Lafaele (Moala, Just Play Master Trainer), running the activity and the method of using cones, markers and bibs to identify answers, I can see that the children are more focused and listening to what Lafaele is explaining to them, more than listening to teachers in class.”

Acknowledging a change in the environment, for example from classroom to the field, reflects the impact of the programme. The long term benefit of the programme is when the skills learned on the field, start translating back into the classroom.

“The Just Play Programme is really good and helpful, not only for children, but to all of us,” ‘Asitamani said.

“I really love soccer and I’m very happy to welcome it to this school.”

‘Asitamani ‘Ahomana, Toloa Primary School Principal, enjoying a Just Play session with the children. Credit: TFA

Just Play isn’t just about learning to play football, but extending the learning to health and wellbeing, being active, gender equality and inclusion, among other themes.

Vili Lotulelei, Principal of Vaotu’u Primary School, is also seeing the benefits of allowing Just Play to be run in his school.

“The programme is very good and I’m happy because children in this school are of good ability in education, but as soccer and NRL joins, I can see that some of them have good ability in sports.

“I am very excited for the programme and it doesn’t affect our school programme. I can see some of the children are really doing good in outside activities. Sports is good because the children can have a better life and good opportunities in the future,” Lotolelei said.

The Just Play Programme has a further 11 weeks to run of the Health and WASH curriculum in the eight Wesleyan Primary Schools in Tonga.

Vili Lotulelei, Vaotu’u Primary School Principal, watches on during a Just Play session. Credit: TFA