Lascelve Graham | Woe is we!
Education and socialisation of majority is not leadership priority
It seems that the rabid tribalism generated by high-school sports in Jamaica trumps all forms of reasoning, logic, community or national spirit or welfare. It supports the ‘see and blind, hear and deaf, infaama fi ded’ mentality and groupthink, the antithesis of critical thinking.
I was told that some Jamaica College (JC) old boys felt that I should not have mentioned the impasse between the school and the Old Boys Association in my last article published on February 28. They don’t understand that whatever happens to affect the children in our public schools, the public needs to know about.
Other JC old boys, with whom I have spoken, took issue with other aspects of the article, and unabashedly declared that JC recruits, imports, brings in children so that JC will continue winning at sports. Why? Apart from bragging rights, they assert that JC has to win if it is going to get funding for the school. They proclaim that they are not concerned with how their actions affect other poor, less-endowed, struggling public schools, which must fend for themselves. They are only concerned about JC! It is every man for himself, and the devil takes the hindmost. The philosophy is, mine is mine and yours is mine. Money determines right and wrong; money decides everything. Of course, old boys of other wealthy, powerful, traditional high schools voice similar sentiments.
Such schools are the engine, the driving force, the role models, the leaders in the vanguard of the despicable approach which insists that schools must endeavour to win at all costs in sports. Hence, the intensely competitive, counterproductive rat race to the bottom, which currently exists in school sports. This has logically led to the practice of these schools going overseas, I am told as far as Africa, to recruit performers for their schools’ sports teams. They are prepared to use taxpayers’ money to offer foreigners educational and other opportunities, while poor people’s children in Jamaica languish in squalor and suffer for want of such opportunities. A who colt the game?
UPSET WITH ME
They are upset with me for denouncing the practice and calling it out for what it is – a corruption of our education system, which goes against the best interests of poor people’s children – the overwhelming majority of the people of Jamaica – and Jamaica itself. It is a clear display of the arrogance, greed and selfishness of the wealthy, privileged, and powerful – the untouchables of this country. It is another example of the ‘haves’making worse the circumstances of the have-nots. The apartheid education system is perpetuated, inequality reinforced, while the victims continue to be blamed for their condition.
Our traditional high schools have been around for many decades, some for centuries. They have had the chance to produce and be associated with many old boys – past students who are now very wealthy and of high status, influence and power in Jamaican society and overseas. They also have PTAs which represent tremendous economic and other human resources. They have a ready-made pool of able persons favourably, sympathetically inclined towards them, to whom they just have to market suitably to generate the required funding for the school. They also have much more exposure to, and clout with, the private sector, swathes of which their old boys control. They have much easier access to funds than do the newer, poorer public secondary schools which accommodate the vast majority of our children.
If the traditional high schools need to win in order to get funding, how much more so do the newer, more impoverished schools, from whence they poach their sports stars? How are they going to have a chance to do this and, hence, improve the conditions that our children face, if the more powerful, endowed schools keep taking away even the little which they have?
I have enumerated several times the many ills associated with the win-at-all-costs approach to sports by our specialised public educational institutions, up to high-school level (basic education), so I won’t repeat them here. Our universities have complained bitterly about the quality of the athletes they get, who, in the main, are not ready for any type of tertiary institution. There is also the myth about so many athletes getting scholarships. Of course, years ago when the Ministry of Education engaged a third party to confirm that, relative to the number of sports recruits, the administrations of the high schools refused to cooperate, after having agreed so to do.
The strengthening of our newer secondary schools in all areas is pivotal to an effective education system. Because it is a system, what happens in one part is felt throughout the system. Weakening the newer schools by taking away their potential support (funding) is not a step in the right direction. Undermining the system by taking youngsters who do not meet the publicly declared academic requirements into schools, is not a step in the right direction. Especially in these times, when we are bombarded daily by horrible acts of antisocial behaviour in our schools, we must allow sports to act as the socialising tool, which is its purpose in school. It should therefore be for the benefit of the children who legitimately qualify to be at a given school, whether sports star or not. For sports in school to be fit for purpose, it cannot be about winning at all costs.
If the education/socialisation of all our children were a top priority, as it should be, this free-for-all in sports in our schools would not be allowed. Our specialised public educational institutions are not sports academies or clubs.
ISSA, that sports governing body comprised of leading educators, and the Ministry of Education, which has been as quiet as a church mouse on this issue, must step up to the plate as regulatory bodies and put an end to this blatant misuse and abuse of sports and our children in our schools.
Lascelve ‘Muggy’ Graham is a former captain of Jamaica’s senior football team. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.