Uganda Chess Federation has continued to implement and lead the FIDE Social Action Commission supported Smart Girl Chess program in Uganda through the leadership of FI, FA Robert Katende and WIM Beatriz Marinello; the Chairperson of the FIDE Social Action Commission who has kept in touch with us by even visiting the Smart Girl Chess Centers herself.
Following the project initiation in December 2013, the programs have grown big and many lives have been empowered with Social and life skills using this chess platform so that students can learn and improve at the game of Chess. The results and impact is unbelievable although there is still scarce resources and facilities.
At the beginning of February 2016, we organized a 4 day inter-community Chess tournament in Gulu at Koro Good News Community Center (Sports Outreach Facility).
The turn-up this year was 108 participants and the tournament started on Tuesday, February 2nd and ended on Thursday February 4th 2016. The theme of the Tournament was “Planning is a VItal Component of Life”.
The purpose of this tournament is mainly to follow-up with the girls under the “Smart Girl Project” chess programs and give them an opportunity to experience competitive play, have fun and change of environment in order to get them exposed to knowledge through conducting children conferences and teachings. The tournament also served to motivate the children in their effort to learn Chess. We are so grateful for Sports Outreach who has partnered with FIDE SAC Commission to help support the program and make this a reality.
Arrangements were made with the help of Sports Outreach; to transport the participants from their respective communities to the center where the tournament was to take place. It was a great experience for the children to travel to the main town of the district.
We used both the van and the pickup to transport the children. Arrival was on the 1st of February and the tournament started on the 2nd. The tournament comprised of different categories with children ranging from 6 years of age to 14 years, They are all part of the “Smart Girl Chess Project”, which receives support from SAC and is running in Sports Outreach Centers (Lagut , Pugwenyi, Lajwatek , Koro, Aywee, Kirombe Academy and others.
It is the biggest tournament so far since the launch of the “Smart Girl Chess Project” in 2013, a program launched with the help of the FIDE Social Action commission. In September 2015, Kampala, Uganda, with the help of FI, IO WIM Beatriz Marinello, who conducted a FIDE Instructors’ Seminar, some of the teachers were empowered with additional training in chess instruction and have now acquired the Developmental and National Instructors Title.
The girls had a wonderful time during the tournament in that, after each day, there was time for fellowship and conduct life skills sessions.
We strongly believe that the number of participants is going to double next year because they are many children that now come to the centers to get introduced to this wonderful game of Chess.
In case we realize the funds, the top 5 children in each category are to travel in early September this year to Kampala for the National Juniors Chess Championship.
This event has turned out to be the only chess event in the region. We are planning to have other small chess tournaments from each center in order to give children more opportunities to put what they learn in action.
We had two facilitators that travelled from Kampala to help on the technical part of the tournament that is, Samuel Kiyaga and Wilson Mugwanya. These are all from Sports Outreach Chess Academy in Kampala.
Special thanks to FA, FI Robert Katende who helps coordinate and oversee this program!
Amidst the limited resources, efforts were made to ensure that we feed the children during the tournament for all the days and provide all necessities for their stay at the Sports Outreach Center. Of course it wasn’t easy to avail accommodation to all children thus; those who were not coming from far had to commute from their homes but, they always missed the evening sessions of sharing because they had to go back before dark.
Special thanks to the facilitators and staff of Sports Outreach that worked tirelessly to ensure that the tournament is successful. Everyone enjoyed three meals a day plus refreshments and this too was a fellowship on its own where the children could interact. During the life skills sessions, the children where give a chance and encouraged to share their life stories that could connect to the life skill taught.
There were moments of getting into small groups in order to enhance involvement and participation in the discussions and each small group could come up with their findings that they could share with the entire group of participants. This provided a great deal of experiential learning. And most children were able to speak before an audience for the first time. Most girls in the community have been inspired by this program and it provides them with an avenue for self-esteem building and having some boys in the programs gives them an opportunity to compete and challenge the boys on board.
Teacher Judith continued to inspire the participants at the closing ceremony. Teacher Irene awarded the best girl for the in the under 14 years category. The winners paused for a photo with their prizes.
The “Smart Girl Chess Program” has become a neutralizer for the cultural beliefs that have always marginalized the women. None of them would ever expect such a moment could ever happen in their lives and now Chess has provided this opportunity!
All photos on this report are Copyright of Robert Katende.