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“Physical”, not Education and Sports


By Roxell John 09.NOV.07

Alas! Our lovely nation has come to a point where top and auxiliary officials of the Department of Physical Education and Sports, a department entrusted with the responsibility of charting the future of the sporting youths of our nation, are at loggerheads with the officials at the Curriculum Unit and the top officials of Ministry of Education.{{more}}

This so-called standoff has pushed the officials of the Curriculum Unit in the Ministry of Education to be directly involved in the organizing and running of, at least, the annual Netball and Football competitions for secondary schools, with the assistance of PESTA. This, since the officials of the Department of Physical Education and Sports, led from the top, withdrew their services from the organization and administration of the all important school sporting activities this year.

This stubbornness by the Department of Physical Education and Sports may have been long in coming, as often many of these officials find it difficult to agree on simple terms of business among themselves and with the teachers at the various schools.

Late last year, three year two Physical Education students from the Division of Arts, Sciences and General Studies of the SVG Community College produced an article alluding to a mistake in removing the Department of Physical Education and Sports from the ambits of the Ministry of Education, and I once again want to reinforce that view. To that said commentary, the Director of Sports rebutted, indicating that the powers that be in the Ministry of Education were not supportive in the advancement of Physical Education and Sports or in giving the area the preeminence it deserves. Now, what is his position at this point?

It was and still is my view that to the obvious relief of the Ministry of Education, the removal of the Department of Physical Education and Sports meant they were no longer responsible for shouldering the direct burden of providing and accounting for Physical Education and Sports in school. These are officials who, with the exception of the very few, may not have experienced the true significance of physical activity in their life. However, in the case of many, their offspring have enjoyed the gratifying and self-developing benefits resultant from their involvement in physical activity. Nonetheless, with this latest development, and since they must give an account for what happens in schools, they have hastily jumped on board.

Thousands of our secondary schools students were eagerly awaiting and preparing for the 2007/2008 schools sports program, but now they had to wait some two months, on the mercies of these sports officials who proclaim they love sports so dearly. For the Department of Physical Education and Sports, I am made aware it is their job, not a volunteer act, or at least that’s the way it was before its reassignment to the Ministry of Tourism and Sports. Kudos must go out at this juncture to Mr. Wayne Murphy and the St. Vincent Brewery Limited for their unconditional support to the schools program. Our school system continues to suffer from the lack of competent and dyed-in-the-wool physical education personnel. Those who are interested are not given the chance to make that difference, while those who are qualified, devoted and have been in the system for a while are frustrated and not motivated to go the extra mile.

In the primary school system, where our students are to learn fundamental movement skills for life, it may be difficult to find ten qualified physical education specialists who are entrusted with positively reinforcing what is technically correct. Those found in the secondary schools do not have the resources, manpower to distribute the work properly, the time to correct or develop skills properly, nor in some cases the support from their principals.

What does this then mean? Our national representatives continue to practice and perform with basic flaws, and yet we expect them to compete consistently well against regional and international teams which eat, sleep and live sports, in some case, from pre-school. That leaves the question, copied from the Honourable Senator, Major St. Clair Leacock, “Are we a sport playing nation, or are we a nation who sport?”, with the Bajan meaning.

Examine the number of young people playing sports today in schools or even in your community. The number has diminished by at least 50%, due to a number of different reasons. We are already feeling the negative effects of this on our health services. We may argue that national teams of the past could have and may have competed very well against the other regional and international teams, but sports today have advanced many miles away from us. In today’s commercially dominated sports world, athletes, coaches and even competition officials are studied. This, coupled with the scientific advancement of equipment, approved enhancement substances, and training sessions, has passed us by ten leap years.

Why do we earnestly work out on our treadmills or be seen running on the roads on evenings after we are instructed to do so by our doctors? It took the physicians to show us the value of physical activity in reducing or even eliminating the effects of some ailments. It would be ironic that persons with the knowledge and the power to do something would see themselves and our nation die of ailments which we could have prevented through proper and frequent physical activity. God Forbid! We gravitate to so many things the developed world and our allies offer us, and yet we still do not replicate the positives of physical activity from them. Let’s look at Cuba, Venezuela and Mexico, countries we have very good relations with of late, they all promote physical education and sports as a national program from the pre-school level to the aged, so as to boast an active and productive work force, a health population and to produce, regularly, world class athletes, coaches and other officials who bring global recognition that has a huge spill off effect on the economy to say the least. Why can’t we catch this cold?

So, again we ask, where do we go from here? Do we continue to organize competitions haphazardly, when we fancy, for basic gratification that we have completed an aspect on our annual calendar of activities? Do we continue to spend money and argue when our national teams do well inconsistently, when we know there is no grass root preparation? Do we continue character assassination and hold personal grudges and allow our youth to lose what little identity we have? Do we continue to degrade the quality and quantity of physical activity made available to the youth and leave them to the vices of drug use and abuse, alcoholism and the now rampant gun battles? Please let it be Physical Education and Sports.