To fight human trafficking in sports 

Human trafficking in sports, such as running and football, is widespread in many African countries. Together with a group of teacher’s training students and three African sports stars, LiU researcher P-O Hansson is building awareness of the risks involved – using an app. 

African youth playing football Photo credit: P-O HanssonCreate an app about the risks of human trafficking, for young sportspeople in Africa. That was the task assigned to LiU researcher P-O Hansson in January 2018. With help from LiU students and three African sports stars, the work will soon be done.

The assignment came from a non-profit foundation in Switzerland.
P-O HanssonP-O Hansson Photo credit: Charlotte Perhammar“They contacted me because I work in mobile learning,” says P-O Hansson, researcher and teacher in the teacher’s training programme at Linköping University.

Over many years he has established contacts in East Africa, where together with students from his programme he has managed numerous school projects in collaboration with African partners. A few years ago he completed his PhD, which investigated mobile learning in Kenya.
“I wanted to discover how mobile technology can aid learning.”

The results pointed to enormous possibilities for users. Mobile technology opened a new world for them, many of whom had little education. Suddenly they could learn about the world around them, learn new languages and start companies.
And it continued from there. P-O Hansson has subsequently started a number of mobile projects in eastern Africa, together with local actors and the UN. These include courses in human rights, entrepreneurship and anti-doping, as well as sexuality and reproductive health.
“When I was asked if I could help develop a free app and create digital courses on human trafficking, it seemed obvious to say yes.”

Designed as a game

Children playing football. Photo credit: P-O HanssonMore than one million young people worldwide are subject to human trafficking, according to UNICEF statistics. This means that vulnerable, poor children and young people can be pulled from their home environments and transported to another country where they are used in hard labour and prostitution. Some of this trade is sports-related. Talented young sportspeople can be tricked into travelling to another country by traffickers who use contracts that look attractive on paper, but in reality lead to exploitation and abuse.

“We’ve understood that human trafficking against the backdrop of sports such as football and running is widespread in several countries.”
The app, which is mainly for young football players, is designed as a game, a sort of life story where the player encounters various events on the way to an international career. Based on different situations, the player is faced with a number of choices. These in turn lead to different scenarios – some good, some bad.
“It helps young people become more aware of what can happen, based on the choices they make. They also learn about children’s rights.”

Incorporate in the teaching in Swedish schools

A private company in western Sweden is working on the technical development of the app, which is expected to be finished in the autumn. Nine civics majors from the teacher’s training programme at LiU are creating the content.
“Some of them have just been on a two-week field course in Ethiopia and Kenya, where they met young people and football coaches, and found out what content the app might need. Next, the students who didn’t make the trip will take over, testing the content and design on young people here in Sweden.”

Sakarias Bengtsson and Samuel RasmussonSakarias Bengtsson and Samuel Rasmusson
Photo credit: Charlotte Perhammar
Samuel Rasmusson and Sakarias Bengtsson are two of the students working on the content.
“The aim is to create a learning resource that really works for the players. We met a football coach in the slums of Nairobi. He stressed the importance of also including information about drugs and STDs in the app,” says Samuel Rasmusson.
Samuel, who is studying to be an upper secondary school teacher in civics and history, learned some important lessons during his time in East Africa.

“Now I have my own experiences from there, which I can incorporate in my teaching in Swedish schools.”
Sakarias Bengtsson is studying to be an upper secondary school teacher in civics and mathematics. He and some fellow students will soon trial the pilot version of the app on lower secondary pupils in Linköping, several of whom have African background.
“Of course we want to get the app to work as well as possible, but I also have a personal interest in how technology can be used in the classroom, and in the mobile phone as a resource. So it will be educational for us students in several different ways,” he says.

Three sports stars are involved

To get the children and young people to use the game in the app, three sports stars – Didier Drogba, football player from Ivory Coast, Kenenisa Bekele, runner from Ethiopia and Fowsiya Mohamud Ali, basketball player from Somalia – have been recruited. The app features short films where they talk about the risks of human trafficking.
In June a prototype of the app will be presented at several football clubs in London.
“They are interested in attracting talented African players, and want to take social responsibility for them,” says P-O Hansson.
In the autumn the app will be launched in three West African countries: Mali, Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone.
“In these countries human trafficking is widespread, so we’re starting there, before expanding to East Africa.”

Translation: Martin Mirko

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