Barnsley FC's Lewin Nyatanga and George Maris support Kick It Out primary school event
Barnsley players Lewin Nyatanga and George Maris were in attendance at Kick It Out’s campaigning event at The Hill Primary Academy in Thurnscoe, Rotherham on Thursday 21 January as part of the organisation’s education work in schools across the country.
Lewis and George, together with representatives from Barnsley’s Reds In The Community charity trust, joined Kick It Out’s Football League Clubs Development Officer, Rishi Jain, for a Q&A session with pupils from Years Four, Five and Six in the main assembly hall on a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon for all involved.
The day began with Rishi leading education workshops with both Year Six classes to promote the organisation’s key messages of equality, inclusion and diversity.
The workshops also gave the young pupils an idea of what Kick It Out does throughout the country, such as working with professional players and at grassroots level to tackle discrimination, as well as reporting incidents of abuse, campaigning for equality and offering mentoring and leadership to young people.
It can be difficult for primary school children to concentrate when discussing such serious issues but to their credit, the pupils remained focused and listened intently throughout.
Rishi was effusive in his praise for students of The Hill Primary Academy: “It was a great day. The kids were absolutely fantastic. You’ve got young people who were really aware of key messages of equality, diversity and inclusion and more importantly what it means for them.”
After making a presentation to the young pupils, Rishi separated the students into small workgroups and tasked them with coming up with a song, chant, poem or rap about Kick It Out.
Once again, Rishi was delighted with the pupils’ efforts: “I was really impressed with the collaborative approach that they took. They were all working together with each other, and that’s a really important message for them to take away.”
After lunch, both Year Six groups joined pupils from the rest of the school in the assembly hall for the eagerly-awaited visit of Lewin and George.
The children were able to ask a whole host of questions to the Tykes players, ranging from what had inspired them to become footballers to how important Kick It Out’s message of equality was for them on and off the pitch.
Wales international Lewin was pleased to be part of the event: “It was really enjoyable. The questions were really good. Sometimes you don’t always get asked great ones but they were fantastic today.”
George added: “It was great – they seemed to know a lot about Kick It Out and asked some really interesting questions.”
Lewin was quick to highlight the significance of the work that Kick It Out does in promoting equality on afternoons such as these: “It’s massive. At the age that these children are at now, they need to be aware of these issues. They’re becoming young adults and then adults, so it’s important they see everyone as equal and they don’t judge differences based on race or religion. The work Kick It Out is doing is fantastic and it needs to continue.”
Professional players are role models for young people across the country and despite being relatively young himself – George is only 19 years old – he had a clear awareness of the responsibility his position carried.
“I think we have a big impact on them,” George emphasised. “They look up to professional footballers. At my school, we didn’t get a chance to talk about issues like this. We didn’t really have anyone to look up in this way so it’s good for the kids to see us, learn about Kick It Out and support what they’re doing.”
After a lengthy Q&A session, each year group was given the opportunity to take a photo with both players – a fitting souvenir on a memorable afternoon.