Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Patria-Kaye Aarons | Make PE, after-school sports mandatory

Published:Tuesday | July 5, 2016 | 7:00 AM
Digicel brand ambassador and 400m sprinter Javon Francis leading a physical education class.

Fat kids love cake. 50 Cent said it, so it must be true. And as we look around Jamaica, there are many fat kids eating their cake with a side of fried chicken and guzzling it all down with an XL soda.

Physical activity in young people is at an all-time low, and climbing trees and running outdoors have been replaced by video games and TV. A generation of zombies with carpal tunnel syndrome and really nimble thumbs is what we are cultivating.

Thank heavens for the saving grace of physical education. Two times a week, kids are forced to move their behinds at school because their timetables say they must. But it stops after third form.

However, the Chronic Disease Research Centre has called for the Ministry of Education to implement mandatory PE for all students in all schools. The recommendation comes in light of growing health concerns in the region surrounding obesity and other lifestyle diseases in young people.

The minister says, fat chance; he isn't having it.

Ruel Reid's resistance is that PE will take away from time dedicated to academics. The school calendar is already stretched, and contact hours with academic staff are already not enough. He said the ministry is prepping kids to pass the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate. In the minister's mind, his job is to feed children's minds. It's parents who feed their bodies and make them fat, so it's parents who should take up the job of making them fit.

I'm the daughter of a PE teacher, so the subject is close to me. I don't quite agree with the minister that children's health is entirely up to the parents. Right or otherwise, parents aren't pulling their weight. In too many instances, they aren't supporting their children in the way you would hope and, invariably, the parenting role falls in the lap of teachers. Yes, the primary responsibility of school is to educate, but it isn't the only thing we expect them to take on.

Though I wouldn't insist on PE all the way up, I would insist that every child have a sport as an extra-curricular activity until sixth form. There is at least one school that has implemented this rule with zero-negative impact on academic performance. That school is Campion.

 

CHOOSE WHAT SUITS YOU

 

Students stay active all through their secondary years after school. Let's agree that not all of us are good with balls. (I tried out for basketball, and when I finally caught the ball, I ran with it like I was trying to make a touchdown. Needless to say, the team rejected me, and I ended up as sport captain, in an administrative role).

Campion students have the flexibility to choose the activity that most suits them (swimming/netball/dancing/cricket/hockey, etc). Undoubtedly, not only does it redound to a healthier child, but it also makes for a more rounded child. Contrary to popular belief, Campion children are far from all about books.

Incidentally, a Campion child must also enrol in a service club to cultivate a benevolent spirit. The attractiveness of a Campion child on paper to a recruiting college demonstrates a child who understands balance and who is involved and has something to contribute to a future school's community. But I digress.

Mandatory enrolment in differing sports will also result in Jamaica doing better in sports other than track and field. Schools and sponsors will invest in other athletic fields, perhaps some non-traditional ones which haven't got attention.

Last Olympics, we were only able to participate in four Olympic sports, and I'm sure we can better that if students get the exposure to and opportunity to train in new and varied sporting options.

Students need to move. The only physical activity they do after third form can't possibly only be twerking. Let's insist they do something a little less PG and whole lot more beneficial to them and to the country.

• Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and findpatria@yahoo.com or tweet @findpatria.