Thu | Dec 5, 2019

Paul Wright | What's happening in our schools?

Published:Tuesday | September 18, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Student athletes participating in competition at the ISSAGrace Kennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships at the National Stadium on Saturday, March 24, 2018.

On Thursday of this week, there will be a TVJ Sports town hall meeting at The Mico University College Auditorium discussing the vexed question of academics vs sports in the life of our children at the nation's secondary schools. The case of 'eleven missing children,' a non-criminal headline, which came to light when it was revealed that the hierarchy of Calabar High School had decreed (after a period of warning) that no boy with an average of less than 60 per cent would be allowed to enter fifth form, probably initiated the idea for this important forum.

Those boys would be forced to seek alternative accommodation if the parent wanted the child to continue schooling. This controversial ruling seems to have been triggered by the consistent failure of Calabar to be ranked in the top 20 of schools whose alumni do well in school-leaving exams, which ostensibly prepare them for

life in a Jamaica where there is little opportunity for upward mobility IF you lack academic qualification.

When this mandate from Calabar was exposed, the Ministry of Education moved quickly to attempt to nullify the move by insisting that no child should be expelled from school because of poor academic performance. At a subsequent meeting attended by school managers, education ministry officials and parents, some boys were apparently readmitted, some had found accommodation elsewhere, and one had migrated. Eleven boys were 'missing,' unaccounted for, and ostensibly lost, abandoned by the very people who had committed to provide an education for at least five years after agreeing to admission. What is happening in our schools? The agreement of the governing body of high-school sports, ISSA, is that to represent a school in sports, all that was needed was a 40 per cent average in four stated subjects. In other words, in order to help the school to win at sports, all that was needed was a fair attendance record and a 40 per cent pass mark. When it comes to sports, it apparently mattered not if the child could barely understand the basics of academic life, once you had a sport skill, 'everything criss'! Now that that dictum has begun to bite schools that were enthusiastically supportive, the consistent failure to be ranked in the top 30 of schools with children able to matriculate with qualifications that would enable them to have a chance at being employable for a living wage, resulted in this decision to expel those who the school surmises would do poorly at school-leaving exams.




The purpose of school is not only to enable children to master the three Rs (Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic), but to provide a holistic education! I am reminded of the formula used by a very successful high-school basketball coach in the USA, John Wooten. His formula for consistent success at competition has four stages.

The first is to impress upon the children in the team the importance of religion, a belief in the common good.

The second is the recognition of the importance of family. He identified children in the group with family problems, and made a special effort to provide a unit within the group.

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

The fourth is to teach the children the importance of the game, why we play, how to show respect for the rules and respect for opponents.

The continued importation/buying of students by name-brand schools for the sole purpose of winning, with little or no regard for the other listed aspects of a child's development while in school, is now being revealed to the casual but interested observer as wrong! I am not saying that all school transfers are to be condemned, as there are several good reasons why a child may have to move from school A to school B. However, the blatant buying of children with athletic ability for the sole purpose of winning must be seen to be wrong and universally condemned. My hope is that the upcoming TVJ Sports town hall meeting will provide ideas and solutions that will result in us doing the right thing for our children.