Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Lascelve Graham | Calabar’s swipe of DQ star abominable

Published:Tuesday | February 7, 2017 | 2:00 AMLascelve Graham
File Donald Quarrie High School track athlete Jordan Anderson leads a set of long distance runners during training. Anderson has been recruited by Calabar High.

On Tuesday, January 31, 2017, The Gleaner published an article titled 'DQ upset after star leaves for Calabar'. It spoke of athlete Jordan Anderson from Donald Quarrie High School winning a bronze medal at Champs last year. This was the first time a Donald Quarrie athlete had ascended the medal podium.

Talbert Wire, DQ's principal, was quoted as saying, "The school celebrated 40 years of existence last week, and this is the first medal we have ever won at the Boys' and Girls' Championships, and we were anticipating that we would use this young man as a stepping stone to obtaining even more medals this year." However, this was not to be, as the youngster is now attending Calabar.

This brings into sharp focus one of the many ills (of which I have spoken on numerous occasions) associated with our high schools recruiting for sports purposes, and thereby using sports ability as the entry requirement for school. It has a profound negative impact on the students, coach and school from which the star has been snatched, especially if, like Donald Quarrie, the institution is struggling to make its mark in the framework within which it operates.

Calabar is more than 100 years old and is a prestigious school with many prominent, powerful and wealthy alumni who contribute heavily to the economic and other areas of the institution. DQ has been around for only 40 years, with none of the above attributes. In its early days, Calabar and the other traditional schools developed sports programmes unfettered by the pernicious practice of the rabid recruiters.

Let us give schools like DQ a better chance to grow, to focus more fully on their main mission, without the distraction, the added hurdle, the burden of losing their extra-curricular stars.

If Jamaica is serious about giving its young citizens, especially those from the poorer strata of society, a chance to get a quality education, we must do all we can to help raise the level of the newer, poorer, less-prestigious schools (like Donald Quarrie), which by far outnumber the others. They need all the help they can get.

Systematically creaming off their extra-curricular (including sports) stars is certainly not a step in the right direction. Taking even a bronze medallist from Champs is akin to the scorched-earth policy used in war, which targets anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area.

 

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If one of our preferred schools had persuaded Usain Bolt or George Rhoden to jump ship, we would have heard how the move raised them to another level. It is a myth that our sports stars need to go to a particular preferred school to do well.

Sports recruitment is symptomatic of the win-at-all-cost mentality, although it is rationalised in so many ways. If schools did not bring in youngsters based on sports ability, we would still have winners. Also, the less wealthy schools would have a better chance of raising funds, since their time in the limelight would help to raise their profile and increase the probability of others wanting to identify with them.

This would be in the best interest of many more students, schools and hence Jamaica. This is in keeping with the bigger picture of trying to provide a good, rounded, basic education for all our children.

The ultra-competitive nature of our school sports is counterproductive with respect to our education and socialisation systems and represents the mistaking of the forest for the trees, whereby the apparent benefit of a few individuals and schools is given preference over the best interests of the many.

We need to protect and encourage our less-endowed schools. Whereas a number of factors contribute to a school's success, extra-curricular (including sports) achievement is a low-hanging fruit that can do wonders for the esteem and funding of our less-prestigious schools.

Let us be fair to them and at least give them a level playing field when it comes to extra-curricular activities like sports. Let us stop the heinous practice of student athlete recruitment by schools for sports purposes only. I beg that the minister of education take another look at this behaviour.

- Dr Lascelve 'Muggy' Graham is a former Jamaica football captain. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and long.78@hotmail.com.