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Laurie Foster | Stronger action needed at Calabar

Published:Wednesday | April 10, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Acting principal Calvin Rowe (left) and then head boy Rajay Maragh walk with the Mortimer Geddes Trophy on March 16, 2017.

Matters concerning the country’s high-school students continue to grab the headlines. Some are for the right reasons, like the convincing victory by St Jago High School over the high-riding Kingston College in the Schools’ Challenge Quiz competition. The North Street Champs winners were still in celebratory gear when Spanish Town’s Monk Street aggregation toppled them. However, on the wrong side of the moral coin came a most disgraceful, distasteful and dishonourable display of despicable behaviour on the part of boys from another high school.

Students from Calabar High School, on the back of a sound thrashing from perennial rivals Kingston College on the previous Saturday night at the National Stadium, were gathered for Monday morning assembly. Hopefully, near to the top of their agenda was to lick their wounds and prepare for a year of hard work and dedication to set things right for Champs 2020. It was not to be. They chose the forum to launch an unwarranted and immoral attack against the school, which had bested them in open and fair competition, using popular phrases that called their rivals’ sexuality into question. From a view of the videos that circulated, the impression was given that all who were present were at one with the disgusting sentiments being expressed. As it was repeatedly said by persons who saw the taped action, not a dissenting voice was heard or any attempt made to curb the boys in their recalcitrant ways. Now what has been the response of the Calabar community?

Led by the acting principal, Calvin Rowe, a delegation journeyed to Kingston College the following day and so-called apologies tendered for the students’ errant and scurrilous behaviour. Commendation has come from all sides, congratulating the Calabar hierarchy on this move. Foster’s Fairplay refuses to join that throng which seems to be trending towards a pardon for the offending students. This thought is triggered by the report that the apologies were accepted by the Kingston College family, as if to say, “here endeth that chapter.”

There is a lot of talk these days about how we as a people are now in modern times, and the young men and women should not be treated as they would have been in the past, even if they commit the most heinous of crimes. It is precisely this argument that promotes and sustains the type of incident which occurred at Calabar two Monday mornings ago.

continuing absence of respect

As was said in a previous column when the still-unresolved physics master story was aired, schoolchildren should not be allowed to feel that appropriate punishment will not follow when they commit acts of the nature now under discussion. Clearly, there is a continuing absence of respect for the school’s management, which allows such atrocities to be played out without serious consequences to the perpetrators. An apology, at best, merely suggests that, as far as the school is concerned, the incident does not merit any further action. Something a lot more drastic should be done to indicate that what was chanted by the boys is unacceptable. We need to return to a position where there is decency and decorum in our actions, and that should embrace the younger generation as well.

There is a call that the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) should intervene and place a one-year ban on Calabar for the misdeeds of its sudents, as depicted in this scenario. It would not be the first time, as such action was taken when both schools had a physical on-field engagement at Champs 1981. However, Foster’s Fairplay rejects that, only because the feeling is that the punishment should come from Calabar and not the oversight body.

It is this columnist’s view that a stronger message would be sent if the school is withdrawn from all ISSA competitions for the same period. This, in our view, would have the impact that what was enacted by the boys on that sad Monday morning was totally out of order, and should not be condoned and made to seem that “ah nuh nutten.”

We all love the high schools we attended back in the ‘50s, but one is confident that the Calabar colleagues from those days, Nobble, Lobo, Tonny, Wayne, Cricket and company will agree.