Sat | Aug 19, 2017

The Wright View | Misplaced priorities

Published:Tuesday | June 20, 2017 | 6:00 AM
Student athletes participating in a Class One 100m sprint at the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships in March.

I read with interest an article by Andre Lowe, published in the Gleaner on June 15 under the banner headline 'Spotlight on ISSA - Old boys bring concerns to ministry of education'. The article stated, among other things, that among the grouses mentioned by the alliance of Old Boys Associations is "ISSA's lack of support to the educational affairs of student athletes who participate in and, by extension, make its competitions attractive to sponsors, as well as the overall interest and development of sporting representatives in local high schools."

This is a statement deserving of interest. My own thought is that the educational affairs of student athletes who participate in school sports is very important. I do recall that ISSA is trying to make it mandatory that these athletes at least have a modicum of scholastic achievement in order to be eligible to represent their school. However, it was representation from 'Old Boys' that has repeatedly questioned and condemned this edict.

The issue of the 'buying' of students of proven athletic ability from 'no-name' schools to name-brand schools, has been condemned by ALL well-thinking citizens. ISSA has been grappling with this sub-human practice and has initiated different rules in a desperate effort to stop this practice. These are some of the ways that the educational affairs of students who participate in ISSA-supervised sports is being addressed. I am hoping that this letter, signed by the executives of five name-brand schools, represents a tacit admission that they have now recognised that the educational affairs of student athletes who participate in school sports is of paramount importance and must never be subservient to winning at sports.

There is a lot that can be done, and is being done, albeit at a slow pace, to improve the health and emotional well-being of children at play in schools. The issue of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) in children at play is, at present, being highlighted by a special month of activities put on by The Heart Foundation of Jamaica. The month that began with a church service, will see different activities spaced out during the month, specifically targeting adults involved in the care of these children while at school.

Administrators, teachers, coaches, old boys (past students) sixth formers, parents and supporters of ALL schools involved in sports are all invited to be present at sessions designed to demonstrate and teach basic life support, and the use of automated external defibrillators (AED), now available at some schools, in cases where a child suddenly collapses at school.

 

FINANCIAL CONUNDRUM

 

Every old boy, past student of schools in Jamaica is well aware of the financial bind that ALL schools are in, as the ministry and school bursars grapple with financing the desire of providing quality all-round education to our children. I do believe that there can be a better explanation of where the money earned from the sponsorship of school sports is concerned. But to suggest that ISSA somehow has an undisclosed agenda in how sponsorship funding is dispersed is not the way to go. Old boys, past students have, and continue, to fund many of the financial demands of their schools. They have provided scholarships to needy and deserving students, built labs, playing surfaces, and have even clothed some children. All vital and important assistance to our young Jamaicans. But what is needed is a coordinated approach in solving this financial conundrum.

The amalgamation of the old boys of these five schools is a start. Now, let this new group look at deciding if a modern athletic track in every school is more important that providing a AED in every school, having trained adults present at every inter-school sporting activity, including the provision of stretchers, ambulances and a medical bag with basic first aid supplies accompanying every team that takes the sports field. It is my belief that these are the priorities when discussing school sports. May this coherence of the top five schools thrive and continue. Just shift the focus.