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Tiny Hearts of Maldives pilot new physical activity programme for schoolchildren

20 Feb 2020

In September 2019, Tiny Hearts of Maldives piloted a physical activity circuit for children in kindergarten and Grades 1 to 2 in a school of Male’ City. The Activity Circuit, which encourages sitting less and moving more, comprises of attractive, child friendly designs installed along a school corridor that takes the children on a quick trail of physical activity including wall push-ups, hopscotch, spinning, reaching and squat movement, as well as components such as balance and breathing.

Pilot Programme
Pilot School: Ghaazee School, Hulhumale, Male’ City, Maldives (student population = 1749)
Launch Date: 29 September 2019
Pilot period: 29 September – 30 November 2019

Direct beneficiaries:
1. Students of classrooms located along the corridor used for pilot activity – Total number = 274 children
Key benefits: Increases in bouts of physical activity during school time, reduction in prolonged sitting, increased enjoyment of physical activity, increased calmness and concentration after hearty break.
Indirect beneficiaries:
2. Students visiting the corridor to experience the activity including students of Special Educational Needs (SEN) class (total = 150 SEN students)
3. Teachers, school support staff & parents: Improved perception of importance of physical activity in learning environment, improved knowledge of value and enjoyment factor of physical activity.

Planning, design and implementation
The team involved in the design stages was experts in the field of Public Health, Fitness and Architecture. The stickers were developed with a key focus on including basic moves, various components of fitness and using child friendly approaches.

Launching event
The activity was launched by the First Lady of Maldives Fazna Ahmed. First Lady was accompanied by Minister of Education Dr Aishath Ali, senior officials of the Ministry of Education, Executive board members of Tiny Hearts of Maldives and senior management team and a group of students of Ghaazee School. First Lady inspected the corridor area and interacted with the students and stopped for a group photo before the press event. She also gave a key message of support for the initiative in front of media present at the launching event.

The Tiny Hearts of Maldives, Ministry of Education and Ghaazee School jointly held a press event following the launch and used this opportunity to advocate for more physical activity in school settings nationwide as well as the World Heart Day messages. This boosted the outreach significantly as the event was attended by the major media outlets in the country including the National Broadcaster. Additional collaborative partners who attended the events include Ministry of Health, Health Protection Agency, WHO Maldives and UNICEF Maldives.

Media and social media coverage
The Launching of the activity was planned for the World Heart Day and concurrently promoted both events on media appearances. THM team made 6 appearances on National TV and Radio stations. The President’s office covered the event with a press release and photo gallery  following the launching activity by the First Lady. TV, radio as well as online and print media news outlets also covered the events prior to and on the day.

Social media outreach for the activity was even higher with 5 different posts relating to School corridor activity on Facebook totalling a reach of 199.3K (excluding the World Heart Day posts), while twitter and instagram had similar trends, most popular post of the launching which received 183.3k reach can be accessed here.

A video spot with feedback from a leading teacher was prepared. The First Lady of Maldives gave a special message advocating for Hearty breaks and such initiatives in schools to promote healthy lifestyles.

It should be noted that THM received calls and messages from various schools across the country to enquire on possibility of replicating the activity in their schools.

Monitoring and Evaluation
3 visits were made (1st week, 2nd week and 1 month from installation) to inspect for damages and to get a feedback on usage and other concerns. Feedback was collected through an assigned teacher and included feedback from students, teachers and parents.

Students felt that shapes, colors and the overall activity were very appealing. There was a consensus that all students used the activity every day and whenever they use the corridor. The most popular activity of the circuit among students were the sprint and the hopscotch. The students stated that they would like this to be a permanent feature at the school.

Feedback from the parents were also very positive and stressed that the kids enjoy this activity and talk about it at home, and there was common consensus among the parents that this type of activities are much needed in the school environment to promote well-being of the kids. However a significant portion of the parents felt that the sticker material could be improved for durability to last an academic year while the activity could also be replicated in other areas of the school so it becomes accessible to the whole school population.

Feedback from the teachers was also very positive and all agreed that the circuit was very easy for the kids to follow and is an effective and enjoyable health-enhancing activity. Teachers noted that this would mostly benefit the age group 4-8 years and that it is important foundation to highlight the importance of an active lifestyle. All teachers highlighted that the sticker location and design was good while the material should be improved for future. When asked about the favorites among the kids, the sprint was most frequently mentioned. However the bridge balancing and the spins were also favorites among the kids according to the teachers.

THM also met with School Health team of the Ministry of Education to hear their feedback and to share the findings of the school feedback and to discuss a way forward to enhance the initiative for replication in more schools.

The school health team were delighted to hear about the feedback of the pilot school and raised the issue of the sticker material as the only set back of the pilot programme and reassured that they would like to work on resolving the issue of the material. THM is scheduled to meet the Minister of Education in late January 2020 to establish a way forward and possibly re-pilot with improved material and/or surface prior to replication across more schools of Maldives. Overall, it was a significantly well-received initiative across all population levels.