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Join for Joy

Playful education builds the next generation.

Join for Joy trains primary school teachers in the rural areas of Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, and Zambia to implement playful learning as a teaching method. In this way, children are encouraged to come to, and stay in school and become resilient boys and girls. They learn about essential topics such as (in)equality and develop life skills such as respect, self-confidence, assertiveness.

HundrED 2023


HundrED has selected this innovation to

HundrED Global Collection 2023

HundrED 2022

Web presence






Target group
Students lower
August 2023
Join for Joy is committed to the improvement of quality education, equal opportunities for girls, and students' (mental) health and well-being in rural East Africa. By implementing playful learning as a teaching method, Join for Joy encourages more boys and girls to come to school, stay in school, and work on their skills and future through education.

About the innovation

Why did you create this innovation?

Children in rural areas of East Africa often do not come to school. Those who do are often experiencing old-fashioned ways of teaching, without much attention to SEL. Girls and disabled children are frequently left out during activities. This - in addition to daily struggles such as illnesses, violence, child marriages, early pregnancies and COVID-19 - leads to an enormous number of dropouts.

How does your innovation work in practice?

Science has shown that children learn better through play. We developed our sustainable sports and play program to change the mindset of primary school teachers on what teaching 'should be' and to teach them how to implement SEL through playful learning at school.

Teachers learn how to playfully teach children how to protect themselves against diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and COVID-19 and how to discuss topics that are taboo in many rural areas, such as sexual violence, child marriages, and gender (in)equality. The sports and play activities specifically aim to develop life skills for children, such as assertiveness, emotion management, empathy, self-confidence, and respect. For children with a disability, sports, and play are powerful means to make them look at possibilities instead of limitations.

This way, all children gain the competencies necessary to build a positive future and succeed in school, work, home, and their communities.

How has it been spreading?

Besides training primary school teachers, we started incorporating the Join for Joy teaching method in East African Teachers’ Colleges last year. Training aspiring teachers who are still in school allows us to share our knowledge of sports for development on a larger scale. Another significant achievement is that we opened a second office. Besides the headquarters in Amsterdam, we opened an office in Lusaka, Zambia. This office makes us more flexible in adapting to local situations and responding to local needs. We expect to be better equipped to develop integrated projects and partnerships with local schools, community centres, and companies. Over the upcoming years, we aim to spread our innovation to new regions and reach over 50 schools yearly.

If I want to try it, what should I do?

Please contact Join for Joy for more information about playful learning, the sports and play program or possible collaborations by e-mailing to info@joinforjoy.

Impact & scalability

HundrED Academy Reviews
Sources showcase the independent research, transferability, and something that can be worldwide adapted. Play-based learning techniques can be resourcefully used as pedagogy. Resources are documented and self-explanatory.
By integrating play with physical activity/education, this innovation will keep students active and engaged while learning important concepts and life skills. It fosters collaboration and is an effective way to engage students.
- Academy member
Academy review results
High Impact
Low Scalability
High Impact
High Scalability
Low Impact
Low Scalability
Low Impact
High Scalability
Read more about our selection process


Playfully learning to say "NO" to abuse.
On the countryside of Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and Malawi, a carefree childhood for school children is anything but self-evident. Hard living conditions and bad environmental influences often lead to problems among young people such as leaving school, teenage pregnancies and drug or alcohol abuse. All these things that can be prevented in many cases with the right guidance, positive alternatives and meaningful education. The Join for Joy Sports and Play Program aims, among other things, to improve the resilience of girls and boys at participating schools.  A practical example:Does a child find it difficult to stand up for himself and say ”no”? With a new game, the teacher provokes assertive behaviour, in which children for example have to defend their own circle for intruders. The reward for desired behaviour is woven into the rules of the game. But just as important: the teacher then makes the translation to their daily life situation by discussing the displayed behaviour with the child in the context of practical situations. This helps the child to understand that in daily life it must also say ”no” if he or she does not want something at all.
Kelvin went back to school after hearing about the Sports and Play program!
Kelvin is eleven years old and lives with his grandparents in a remote village in Zambia. He dropped out of school and spent the past five years working on the land and taking care of the cattle. When he heard that his peers were enjoying sports and play at the local school, he decided to return to school. He is happy to be back, to learn new things and to be able to play.
Less-abled Addy finally feels part of his community because of sports & play!
Addy is 14 years old and has autism. Due to his disability, he was not allowed to play along with his classmatess for years. His teachers wanted to involve Addie, but they just didn't know how. Since 2019, Mutundu Primary School (Kenya) has been included in the Join for Joy Sports and Play program. Since the introduction of the program, a lot has changed for Addie. His teachers learnt during the trainings that small adjustments to playing activities allow the inclusion of every single child. Addy is now learning to look at possibilities instead of limitations. He plays along and is therefore accepted. Addy finally feels like a member of his community.
Mercy learns about malaria in the game "Don't Bite Me"!
Mercy is one of the competitive girls participating in the program. In this photo, you see a snapshot of the ‘Malaria Game’. By playing this game, children learn about the symptoms of malaria. When Mercy is bitten (tagged) by the malaria mosquito (tagger), Mercy shows one of the symptoms of malaria. When she is tagged free by one of the doctors, she is ‘cured’ and can run freely on the field again.

Implementation steps

Every year, approximately 50 schools in Zambia, Uganda, Malawi, and Kenya are selected to join our training program, based on their motivation. We select an equal number of female and male teachers at each school. During one year, this team enjoys three intensive weeks of training. The schools also participate in sports festivals full of singing, dancing, sports, and games. Our Join for Joy coaches visit the schools monthly to monitor progress and provide teachers with additional guidance.
During the kick-off phase, teachers attend five days of training to get acquainted with playful learning, leading sports and play activities, and using these activities to discuss social topics such as early marriages, disease prevention, and teenage pregnancies. Teachers learn how to create a physically and emotionally safe learning environment, and how to be a positive role model for children. They learn by experiencing and by reflecting on those experiences.
Train The Trainer
After a few months of implementing the kick-off skills and knowledge into schools, teachers reunite for another training week to discuss inclusivity (especially for girls and less-abled children) and boy and girl empowerment. Teachers reflect on their own teaching methods and perspectives. Existing beliefs that limit children's opportunities, such as that girls should not be allowed to play football because this would negatively affect their fertility, get disproved.
Achievement Review
Join for Joy tests the teachers on all parts of the learning module during practical and theoretical exams. Together with the school's director, teachers create an action plan on how they will independently sustain the Join for Joy program. This action plan acts as an agreement signed by the school's teachers and director, and ensures the sustainability of the Join for Joy program.
Alumni Program
After completing the program, the teachers will remain involved in the Alumni Program for three years. They meet annually, under the guidance of our coaches, to play sports together, to reflect on the progress and challenges at school, and to share experiences. Our coaches continue to offer support when a school needs extra guidance, for example, due to changing staffing of teachers.

Spread of the innovation

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