The UEFA Foundation for Children, in partnership with the Oscar Foundation, is supporting activities to increase the number of children continuing their education in Mumbai.
The number of children dropping out of education at the age of 14 is increasing across Mumbai’s slums. Underprivileged children are being sent to work to help meet their families’ needs. Entering the labour market at such a young age and working long days in dangerous conditions is having a disastrous effect on their mental and physical development, while the risks of developing addictions to alcohol and drugs increase.
Two thirds of girls in Mumbai’s education system drop out of school before they reach their 15th birthday. Many are ushered into child marriages, with parents believing this will secure their daughters’ economic security. However, cutting short their education severely limits their future prospects and the cycle of poverty therefore self-perpetuates.
Education through sport
The UEFA Foundation for Children, which celebrated its fifth anniversary on 24 April, has been working alongside the Oscar Foundation – a non-profit organisation based in Mumbai dedicated to empowering children in low-income Indian communities – since 2019.
The project in Mumbai comprises football and education programmes that rely on the power of football to bring about social change. The aim is to use football to engage youngsters in a variety of activities, but also to teach them about key social topics such as teamwork, respect and fair play, thus increasing their resilience, self-esteem and motivation.
During the sessions, issues such as dropping out of school, child marriage, child labour or health and hygiene are discussed. If children identify as being at risk of dropping out of school, they will be invited to attend informal education classes at one of the four education hubs in Mumbai, improving their chances of passing exams and providing a platform for future employment opportunities.
A fantastic initiative
“Having access to good-quality education is one of the most important things in life and has the potential to open up so many new opportunities,” said former Liverpool midfielder Luis García, who spent a year playing in India for Atlético de Kolkata.
García knows the value of education, having graduated from UEFA’s Executive Master for International Players (MIP) programme in 2019 – along with Youri Djorkaeff and Gaizka Mendieta.
“Football is a powerful tool which can be used in order to facilitate change and this is a fantastic initiative by the UEFA Foundation for Children in conjunction with the Oscar Foundation to help those in need in Mumbai, which will hopefully have a long-lasting effect on their future lives.”
Football is a powerful tool
UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin chairs the board of trustees of the UEFA Foundation for Children and hails the work undertaken since 2015, and how football is proving to be a major force for social good.
“Having had the opportunity to be personally involved in various projects, I have seen that football is an extremely powerful tool,” said the UEFA president.
“Whether it is in refugee camps across the world, the troubled suburbs of European cities or forgotten conflict zones, all the activities supported by the UEFA Foundation for Children have strengthened my desire to see European football assume its role in the social development of young people all over the world.”
One million children
In the five years since the UEFA Foundation for Children was set up, around one million children have benefitted from its broad palette of activities worldwide, while it has provided support for projects in 100 countries on all five continents.
Through sport, and football in particular, the foundation is helping to give hope to children from difficult backgrounds to help them achieve their goals in life.