Summer Camps

Summer Camps:

A joy for children, a relief for parents

Although a relatively new concept in Ethiopia, summer camps are emerging in Addis Ababa. Some experts say that these programmes, which often focus on non-academic activities like sports and recreation, are beneficial for children as they offer chances to interact with peers and coaches who have time to listen, talk, relax, and reflect. Such opportunities provide them a rare chance to work together, learn how to take responsibility and solve problems, develop creative skills, build independence and self-reliance, and gain confidence – skills that are necessary to a child’s path to a healthy and productive future. EBR’s Meseret Mamo spoke with camp leaders, parents and students about the effects of summer camp on children.

Known in Ethiopia as the kiremt, the months of June, July and August are usually regarded a time for children to rest after being in school for nine or ten months. However, for working parents, this period can be a stressful time. This is because while school-aged kids are dreaming of hours of free time, parents worry about how their children can be engaged in stimulating activities and who will take care of their kids for at least two months. This concern is especially prevalent in big urban areas like Addis Ababa, where playing outside the home is becoming difficult and unsafe for children.
But some individuals mapped out ways to lessen such anxiety by providing options both for the children and their parents. Solomon Demeke is one such person, who managed to open a summer programme for children through his Dream Big Ethiopian Sport Academy at Hilton Addis.
“Children can learn a lot of things and be active in their life as well as professionalism if we provide them with proper guidance,” He told EBR. “This is why I want my summer camp to be a place for acquiring skills rather than just being a place for babysitting.”
He has managed to run the summer camp for the past five years and provides ground tennis and basketball trainings, charging ETB5,200 for a one-and-a-half month period.
Solomon himself began his career in sports by participating in summer camp. His parents enrolled him in tennis lessons during summer and the lessons proved fruitful. At the age of 16, his skills enabled him to win a scholarship to the United States. There, he studied and mastered tennis and worked as Director of Tennis Academy of the South in Atlanta for 15 years. He later became a coach at Georgia Primitive College for five years and simultaneously started his own sport academy, Dream Big Atlanta, at Georgia State University, for another five years.
Just after returning to Ethiopia five years ago, he came up with the idea of starting summer camp programme here. “I want to give the same opportunity as I was given for Ethiopian kids,” says Solomon.
Some of the beneficiaries of this summer programme are Daniel Nega’s kids – Kaleb, 14 and Afiana, 17. Both attended Solomon’s summer programme for the last three consecutive years. “I enrolled my children to this summer programme because I know their real interest is in sport,” says Daniel. Much to his delight, his kids even participated in the International Tennis Federation Game for juniors in January 2015, which was held in Kenya.
Afiana lauds the benefit she gets from participating in summer programmes: “I became more resilient to the stress of school.”
Experts say that there are a number of benefits summer camps can provide to children. At summer camp, children can get the exercise they need to improve their health and overall well-being. Kids also learn values that help in social settings, like teamwork and cultivating relationships with others.
Academicians also encourage programmes that provide opportunities for kids to relax and energize their minds during the summer months. “There is a reason why the regular academic period lasts 10th months,” says Fantahun Admas (PhD), assistant professor of special education at Addis Ababa University. “This is because children who attend school need rest and to focus on non-academic activities that will make them ready for the next school year.”
These non-academic activities may also translate into the development of life skills. In a piece published by Psychology Today, Michael Ungar (PhD), a family therapist, says, “the best camping experiences offer…opportunities for manageable amounts of risk and responsibility, what I term ‘the risk takers advantage’.” Ungar states that summer camps that allow children to engage in activities may help kids become more resilient to life’s challenges, like being away from family, strengthening identity, asserting their independence and teaching the importance of physical exercise.
This was the intention of Fikirte Gebremariam when she stated to offer a summer programme for kids at Bisrate Gebriel International School, last year. She used to work at the summer programme that was run by Laphto Mall for three years. “From my experience, I learned that kids who engage in non-academic activities during the summer perform better in school,” she told EBR. “This is why the school allowed me to run a summer programme [that includes]…different sport and art activities.”
Ethiopians aren’t the only ones interested in helping develop summer programmes in Ethiopia – foreign nationals are also doing the same. Carlos Thornton, a former professional American football player, opened up a summer camp in Ethiopia in 2007. His summer camp for children between the ages 7 to 21, aims to teach different sports as well as increasing the skills of kids in language art drama and dancing. “So far six players who attended this summer programmes have joined the national basketball team,” says Thornton.
This summer, he gives these trainings in three different places such as Minilik Secondary School, which is located around Arat Kilo and the Young Roots English School, which is located near Hayat Village and Hill Bottom, located in the Bole district. Thornton claims that his summer programme is cheaper compared to others and allows kids to stay for a longer period of time. He also says that his programme can accommodate more students because he has a number of locations.
The summer camps operating in Ethiopia have a little disparity in the programmes they offer. Kids can stay for a month-and-a-half period on average. The maximum stay time for kids within a day lasts until 5:30 PM at Coach Carlos’ place with a maximum fee of ETB2,000. Kids can stay in summer camp run by Laphto Mall until 3:00 PM and the camp charges ETB5,900 while the summer camp that is operating at Bisrate Gebriel International School charges ETB3,000.
But Fantahun says it shouldn’t be this expensive to enrol a child in summer camp. ‘‘Parents could make a bargain with schools to prepare a non academic summer programs,’’ he noted. “This is especially possible for schools that have a wide compound.” EBR


3rd Year • August 16 – September 15 2015 • No. 30

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