BRAIN TONIC

Chess helps students perform better in class

MiniChess programme was introduced in Uganda and Rwanda two years ago and launched in Kenya in December

In Summary

• The concentration is outstanding and it prepares them for other subjects.

•Uganda Chess Federation official Robert Katende said the programme uses chess as a concept for mathematics and science.

MiniChess Kenya coach Githinji Hinga shares tips with junior players at Braeburn Imani chess club, Nairobi
MiniChess Kenya coach Githinji Hinga shares tips with junior players at Braeburn Imani chess club, Nairobi
Image: FILE

Statistics indicate that performances in mathematics and science subjects have dropped over the years in primary and secondary schools in East Africa.

 

The number of children interested in the two subjects diminishes by the time they join secondary school, with a few majoring in them in university.  The slump is now a big concern in the education sector.

Teaching chess to entry-phase learners has been shown to improve performance in all subjects, and mathematics and science in particular.

 
 
 

The MiniChess Programme, developed in South Africa in 2010 by Marisa van der Merwe as part of the school curriculum, has had great success in a number of schools in South Africa.

The programme was introduced in Uganda and Rwanda two years ago and launched in Kenya in December. It has also been successful in Lesotho and Madagascar.

MiniChess is organised into structured lessons, with detailed lesson plans for teachers and attractive project books for the learners.

The programme uses tried and tested methods for teaching through playing chess, drawing more people into the sport, especially the young, and raising the standard of the game.

During the launch in Nairobi in 2018, Merwe said, “This programme has immense benefits for education and also the sporting front because it helps develop a child’s mind and interest in the game. I believe it will have immense success here in Kenya.” 

 

There are four levels, each accommodating the continual development of skills and capacity as the child grows. The programme continually links chess concepts with maths, science and life skills.

“If more young people get interested, the standard of the sport in the country will improve because we will have more players,” she added.

 
 
 

HIGH ENTHUSIASM

Uganda Chess Federation official Robert Katende said the programme uses chess as a concept for mathematics and science.

“We want to introduce a different culture by not just focusing on the game but education as well,” said Katende, who is overseeing the project at Kagoma Gate in Uganda.

Kagoma Gate has 150 children who are actively involved in MiniChess; three children won in the junior national championships last April.

“Every week, there is something interesting with these children. The impact of the programme is outstanding. The enthusiasm and love for chess is high. The concentration is outstanding and it prepares them for other subjects,” Katende said.

Team leader Moses Wambi said the children have improved in their communication skills thanks to the programme. “They are now fluent in Kiswahili and English. We are also surprised at the level of skill in the game,” he said.

MiniChess Kenya CEO Githinji Hinga said Kenya will benefit from the programme and improve the standards of chess in the country. Ugandans have been getting the better of Kenyans at both local and international events.

Hinga said lack of sponsorship had delayed the launch of the programme in Kenya. The programme will be rolled out in schools in Mukuru kwa Njenga slums, then move to other less privileged areas like Kibera and Mathare slums.

“It will feature three levels, with a lesson every week for one year involving children aged five to nine years. We want to enhance their creativity, thinking and learning through playing chess,” Hinga said, adding that they want to cultivate the learning of mathematics and science as well.

“We want to eradicate cramming and reciting what they are told by enhancing their ability to do things logically through thinking and creativity. Chess is a catalyst to that,” Hinga said.

In Rwanda, the programme started in 2014. In February 2015, five schools with 900 children were actively involved in the programme, which is fully sponsored by the Kasparov Chess Foundation. The schools are from less privileged areas of Kigali and Bugesera.

Rwanda Chess Federation secretary-general Alain Niyibizi, who is also the MiniChess regional co-ordinator, said the MiniChess programme is currently at level one. “Next year, the programme will move to level two. We are pleased that parents and school heads are keen on the programme,” he said.