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Garth Rattray | Toxic high school rivalry

Published:Monday | April 8, 2019 | 12:00 AM

The way that the Calabar High School authorities handled the dust-up reportedly involving a teacher and two of their star athletes deserved a failing grade. The physics teacher claimed that he was abused and assaulted during an altercation with two of the school’s top athletes, yet the powers that be dilly-dallied, fiddled around and was wishy-washy in their approach.

So, the teacher brought it into the public domain. He declined pressing charges, but needed some degree of ‘justice’, but it was not forthcoming. The young men were suspended from some classes but not from athletic activities, because they are track stars. In fact, the teacher reported that one of them remarked that ‘tracks run things’ at the school.

That situation at Calabar ­signalled that the school will compromise anything in pursuit of athletic success and dominance. Ostensibly, ethics, discipline, fairness, academics and justice are less important than winning at an athletic event. It broadcast that the financial benefits and popularity gained are far more important than anything else.

I’ve always had problems with the practice of the ‘acquisition’ of talented athletes by certain schools. On the one hand, it gives underprivileged youngsters opportunities that nothing else could give them. However, on the other hand, the trading of students for their athleticism compromises their academic potential and it reminds me of ­slavery, for some reason.

Competition can be healthy, if it’s friendly. However, given the stakes involved, the rivalry can become toxic.

I’ll never forget the photo of a young man as he crossed the finish line first at Champs several years ago. He turned towards the stands and signalled to his (losing) rivals with his hand depicting a gun as he pointed it at the group. The few dissenting rumblings soon faded like distant thunder and became inconsequential in short order. Nothing came of his suggestive demonstration of disdain and violence.


Disrespect and, possibly, hate between rival schools are intolerable. I went to St George’s College and mutual respect was always maintained between us and our North Street rival, Kingston College (KC). I was therefore taken aback when I saw a recent video of an assembly hall full of Calabar ­students repeatedly chanting, “KC a b*** man school…”

Not every boy joined in. From their facial expressions and non-involvement, some were evidently unhappy with what was going on, and possibly even distressed by it all. Perhaps they saw the wrong in it, and perhaps they had relatives, even close relatives, attending KC.

But what really got to me was that this was not just a random group of idle students ­experiencing a bit of the madness of ‘mob ­psychology’, it was during school assembly. The video clearly shows ineffective adults mulling around and being totally ignored by the unruly mob.

I have yet to fathom this ­obsession with homosexuality. Our society reviles ­homosexuals more than rapists and cowardly, cold-bloodied murderers. Statistically, it’s almost a certainty that several of those boys shouting “KC a b*** man school…” are closeted homosexuals.

Schools are where children build the foundation on which their entire future depends. Schooling is not confined to academics; schooling is supposed to build character and deportment and develop morals and social awareness. How did such a once-noble school, “established by the Jamaica Baptist Union in 1912 for the children of Baptist ministers and poor blacks, and was named after the former slave port Calabar, in present-day Nigeria”, descend to such base behaviour?

Calabar’s apology to KC is insufficient. The seriousness of this disgraceful display requires ministerial intervention. The school needs to apologise to the nation and, in order to send the message that this is intolerable, penance should be the performance of a highly publicised community service.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to and