Paul Wright | ISSA's inconsistent child welfare policy
The editorial in the last publication of The Sunday Gleaner questioned the reason why our sport minister, the Honourable Olivia Grange, requested the Jamaica Cricket Association to get the real reason why a girl, Rashada Williams, from Eltham High School, was not allowed to represent her school in the Grace Shield cricket competition. This competition is historically a cricket tournament for boys 19 and under. At the time of the request in 2015, ISSA had emphatically said no. Our honorable minister obviously thinks that there may be something sinister in the refusal of ISSA to allow Ms Williams to play with the boys.
There is nothing sinister or unusual about ISSA's decision. In the under-14 and under-16 competitions, girls are allowed to play cricket with and against the boys. However, in under-19 competitions, a whole different set of medical issues arise. The most significant medical issue is a hormone named testosterone.
As boys mature, moving from pre-teen stage to adulthood, the level of this hormone increases year by year. This hormone is responsible for muscle building and strength, among other things. Testosterone levels in girls do not increase as it does in boys. Therefore, consider this scenario: Rashada Williams comes out to bat. With the ball in his hands is an opposing (male) pace bowler, capable of delivering the ball at adult-like speeds. The pitch is lively, has been lively since the first ball was bowled. The pace bowler comes up to the crease and delivers a short-pitch 'screamer' that rises above waist level and is just too fast for our female batter to avoid. THUD! The child falls to the ground, medical help is immediately available, and she is transported to a nearby hospital, where a skilled medical team ensures that there is no life-threatening outcome, but injured, our female cricketer is. Who is to blame? The pitch, the protective equipment (or lack thereof) that she wore, or a short-sighted governing body (ISSA) who should have anticipated such a catastrophe?
FOUR BEST TEAMS
The semi-finals of the Walker Cup competition last Saturday resulted in what was essentially the four best teams in the Urban Manning Cup, vying for a place in the Finals, slated for today. The Kingston College (KC) versus St Andrew Technical High School (STATHS) match finished with a 1-0 defeat for the team from Bumper Hall. KC continued on their unrelenting quest for four trophies this schoolboy football season. This was a close, hard-fought victory from a team that has so far been the best all-round (offence and defence) team on show. The other game, pitted the current Manning Cup Champions, Jamaica College (JC) against 'never-say-die', 'fight to the end' Calabar High School. The final whistle had JC with 10 players, winning by a score of 6-1! JC scored ALL seven goals! How come? What happened to Calabar? The answer: physical and mental exhaustion. Nothing more, nothing less. Calabar qualified for the semi-finals by defeating Bridgeport High School, on penalties, after 120 minutes of non-stop action on a waterlogged field on Thursday. Essentially heavy underfoot conditions, that are known to be extremely energy sapping. Yet these young men, CHILDREN, were expected to go to school on Friday, and play again on Saturday against, arguably the second best team in the competition. Medically impossible! Calabar had absolutely no chance! Was it fair, to force these boys to play again so soon? Definitely not! But they had to. "The rules allow it" says the ISSA director of competition, George Forbes.
ISSA gets some decisions regarding the health and well-being of our children in school right and some, obviously wrong. What I do know is that they genuinely tried to get ALL their decisions right. The problem why the wrong decisions occur is, in my opinion: money! Plain and simple, Cash. ISSA does not have the funds to provide the best of what is required for competitive and challenging school sports islandwide. The lure of sponsors, and money, with their demands for a return on investment means that our children are placed at risk, mentally, physically, and educationally, to perform, like trained seals, in competition after competition, thus enabling the schools and the governing body to 'eat a food', to use a well-known colloquial expression.
Our children are stressed, underfed, undereducated, and tired. This can be fixed. All it needs is a ministry (or minister) that is prepared to do the right thing for the children, and wink and nod in order to please financiers and past student associations whose mantra includes 'win at all costs'. When will we the parents begin to demand that our children are given the best opportunity to attend school, and get the best possible education that the school of their choice has to offer? When?