Mon | May 27, 2024

Lascelve Graham | Recruiting of foreign athletes by public schools

Published:Sunday | April 7, 2024 | 12:08 AM

Kingston College’s Brian Kiprop (left) is congratulated by Jamaica College’s Kemarrio Bygrave after he won the Class One Boys’ 1,500 metres at the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships at the National Stadium.
Kingston College’s Brian Kiprop (left) is congratulated by Jamaica College’s Kemarrio Bygrave after he won the Class One Boys’ 1,500 metres at the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships at the National Stadium.
Lascelve Graham
Lascelve Graham
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There was an article in The Observer of March 27 titled ‘Grange, Wehby see positives in international participation at Champs’.

Of course, all actions carried out by man have positives or they would not be done. It depends on the perspective. Some of the most inhumane things done have been looked at in a positive light by their perpetrators. Extreme examples such as slavery and apartheid readily come to mind. However, one should not only look at the positives of an action, but also the negatives and whose interests are being served. One needs to do a situation analysis, a due diligence, and put things in context.

Let’s start from the beginning. What is the mission of public school in Jamaica? What is the role of co-curricular activities in this context? The primary mission of public school in Jamaica, in keeping with worldwide practice, is to prepare our young citizens for life by formally educating them, focusing on the academic, technical and vocational areas. However, school is also one of the main socialising agents of society along with the family. Hence the idea of co-curricular activities in an attempt to go beyond the curriculum in helping to inculcate the values, attitudes, behaviours and life skills necessary for a sustainable society. Co-curricular activities represent a strengthening of the attempt to build character and deliver a more “rounded“ citizen to the society. This is the essence, the spirit, the role of co-curricular activities in the education/socialisation system. Hence the concept of ‘student-athlete’.

QUALITY EDUCATION

In Jamaica, there is a very high demand for quality education. There is a low supply of this need. Hence, a protocol has been developed for entry to public high schools whereby children get into these schools based on their preparedness to deal with the curriculum at these schools. This is in keeping with the ‘merit’ system which is used all over the world. This puts tremendous pressure on children. The competition is intense, traumatic even, for many. Most of our children are from poor settings so the journey to get into a “good” high school is even more daunting, demanding for them. Having sacrificed, persevered and overcome huge challenges to arrive at realising their goal of being a part of the school cohort of a “better” school, they deserve all the assistance that school can offer them to improve themselves. Having qualified for the curriculum at that school, given the mission of school and the role of co-curricular activities in helping the school to achieve its mission, they have earned the right to be exposed to all the benefits, opportunities that co-curricular activities can offer, including representing their school. However, many of these poor children are short-changed, frustrated, penalised for heeding the exhortation to focus on their schoolwork.

Although qualifying for the curriculum at a particular school by almost herculean effort (e.g. dodging bullets, fearfully travelling the streets of garrison communities, staying out of gangs and staying focused on their schoolwork, studying under street lights while living under almost subhuman conditions, etc.), they are considered unworthy to represent their school and so outsiders both local and foreign are brought in as their replacements. This is fundamentally flawed! It is wrong in principle! They qualified for the curriculum but not the co-curriculum. Absurd! De facto, our public schools are being represented by sports academies! Leadership have corrupted the system.

The whole concept of co-curricular activities has been bastardised, turned on its head in public school sports. It’s an injustice! The win-at-all-costs approach to sports in our public schools, and the consequent recruiting for sports has undermined, weakened our education/socialisation system at a time when Jamaica is in need of all the socialising help it can get. Individual athletes take dope to boost their performance. Our public schools recruit for sports for the same reason. Both should be banned!

HOSTILITY

The irony: co-curricular activities (e.g. Champs), that should be promoting peace and love, have over the years produced so much hostility, antisocial behaviour, violence. We have a problem!

The recruiting of foreign athletes follows logically from the win-at-all-costs approach to sports by our public schools, since the only reason schools recruit for sports is to win.

Not recruiting would simply mean that other schools would have a chance to win! Sports in school would no longer be denatured. Its nature as a co-curricular activity would be restored!

Our poor children don’t get the full benefit of the co-curricular activity, which they have earned by the hard work they have put in to legitimately qualify to do the curriculum at a given school. The recruits, outsiders, foreigners represent the school in their places. There are many negatives associated with this double standard, including sending the wrong messages to our children and making it more difficult for our poorer schools to improve themselves.

Minister Grange is quoted as saying, ”As long as it does not affect our home-grown athletes, I don’t have a problem”. The message seems clear - athletes are more important than students. It seems to me that, if foreigners are recruited to take the places of Jamaican home-grown children, students, then it must affect these home-grown students. Poor, deserving Jamaicans are crying out for a good education but the powers that be see nothing wrong with bringing foreigners to use our scarce educational resources, to take their places in our public schools because of their sports ability. Recruiting foreigners for sports not only prevents students at the school from making the team, but also prevents Jamaican students from coming to the school. Mr. Don Wehby, whose company has sponsored Champs since 2007, is quoted as saying he wouldn’t mind seeing an increase of foreign students for future editions.

Is this really the way to go?

Dr Lascelve ‘Muggy’ Graham is a former captain of Manning, All-Manning, All-Schools and All-Jamaica football teams. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com