In 2014, my friends, colleagues, family, and I have installed playground equipment in Ecuador, Peru, Ethiopia, Uganda, Cambodia, and the Navajo Nation. In the last 6 years in Uganda alone, we have installed swing sets and other playground equipment at over 30 sites. Installing playground equipment is important for a variety of reasons.
A group working in Kenya called Grassroots Alliance for Community Education (G.R.A.C.E.) recently published a promotion that explains why outdoor playgrounds and recreational activities are important:
Article 31 of the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Children states that countries should recognize the right of children to rest, leisure, play and recreational activities and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.
Play is a means of developing the skills needed in adult life, as it helps children interact with each other, develop language, learn how to set and adhere to group rules and develop physically.
A [large] number of poverty stricken children are forced to engage in farm work and heavy domestic work. [And I would add activities like rock crushing.] This is compounded by the shortage of safe spaces within the communities where children can play and interact in a relaxed and meaningful way. These factors are major obstacles to exercising their right to play, rest and recreation.
During our January 2015 trip to a community in Rwenzori Mountains of western Uganda, we installed a 4-seat swing set. I recently received the following email from the community leader:
Due to the installation of the swing set in the school, the number of students has increased from 240 to 287 this first term of 2015. My finding therefore is that there is high competition of pupils for the swing set during playing hours. And so there is also a need of another type of game to occupy some of the pupils during play hours.
So swing playground equipment in developing countries can serve as important kid-magnets, encouraging younger students to stay in school.
In my humble opinion, the value of installing playground equipment in developing countries is seriously undervalued.