Mon | Dec 5, 2016

Children do matter

Published:Monday | April 20, 2015 | 10:08 AMDr. Paul Wright
Thwaites ... moved to restrict the transfer of students for the sole purpose of winnning at sports

The chilling murder of four persons in the Monymusk area - Lionel Town - last week has caused most Jamaicans to reflect very seriously on the apparent projected pathway of our nation.

The fact that the four Jamaicans were forced to lie face down on the ground and executed by gunshots to the back of the head reflects the correct use of the word “terror” by our Prime Minister.

The perpetrators of this heinous crime terrorised their victims before their deaths.
Three children were among the victims, three boys, two aged 14 years and one aged 15 years, who were from all accounts, friends. This murder confirms the precipitous downward spiral that reflects the prospects for life and the pursuit of happiness of our children.

There seems to be a casual response to the abuse of children by some of us in positions of leadership that, to me, explains how we as a nation could be experiencing such horror.

The concept of children as commodities, to be bought and sold, by selfish adults/companies has been increasing in frequency and intensity to the extent that the defenders of this practice now assure us that it is normal, “ah-nuh-nutten”.

In sports, the use of a child in ambush marketing is seen as smart, and an attempt by the Minister of Education, Reverend Ronnie Thwaites, to restrict the transfer of children from school A to school B for the sole purpose of winning at sports, is characterised as ministerial interference in the rights of the child’s parents, conveniently forgetting that the present system of placement of children in high school is based primarily on scholastic achievement in an annual exam.

I shuddered when a I heard the Headmaster of a prominent high school say on national radio that his wish was to see students who average 30 percent in Primary school and in the exam, be allowed entry to Campion College, where the average of 90 percent in the exam might not be good enough to guarantee entry to that institution.

Could he have been serious?

It is obvious that we just cannot go on like this. Aside from the mandatory wringing of hands and a declaration to ‘bring the criminals to justice’, I propose that sports be used as the driving force behind a concerted effort to reveal (to ourselves) the fact that children do matter.

A very successful high school basketball coach in the USA, Morgan Wooten, was asked the secret of his success, in not only producing winning basketball teams, but at the same time producing successful citizens.

This is his formula for success (I am paraphrasing).

The first priority when facing a group of children who are to be coached in a sport, is to impress upon them the importance of religion, a belief in the common good.
Secondly, the recognition of the importance of family! That would mean identifying those children in the group with family problems and making a special effort to provide a unit (family) within the group.

Thirdly, impress upon the children the importance of academics in their future encounter with life outside of school and sports. A career as a sportsman/woman can be painfully short, there needs to be a sound academic background as insurance for a meaningful life.

And finally, the importance of the game, why we play, show respect for each other, respect for the rules and respect for the opponents.

I do believe that most coaches in Jamaica try to fulfill these objectives, but are soon sidetracked by the importance of winning, believing that their economic future would be blighted by the failure to win a tournament, even if the children they coach go on to be successful citizens.

Let us start by showing the malcontents among us that children do matter, that children are our future and let us also come down very hard on any adult or company who supports the abuse of children whether obviously, or surreptitiously, by denying them their childhood.