As children growing up we were led to believe that Christmas is a time for making wishes such that somehow they would be realised in the very near future. In this Column we contemplate a Christmas sports wish list.
We wish for a government that is committed to sport and not just pay lip service to sport. This begins with a readiness to understand what sport is about.
We wish for a government that understands that the foundation for sport in the country rests with developing a culture of physical literacy. This means that we introduce the entire population to the importance of physical activity as a way of life for all.
We are aware of what constitutes literacy – the ability to read and write intelligibly. Physical literacy means being able to use movement to facilitate our overall well being as human beings in society.
Physical and Health Education Canada states the following:
Individuals who are physically literate move with competence and confidence in a wide variety of physical activities in multiple environments that benefit the healthy development of the whole person.
Physically literate individuals consistently develop the motivation and ability to understand, communicate, apply, and analyze different forms of movement.
They are able to demonstrate a variety of movements confidently, competently, creatively and strategically across a wide range of health-related physical activities.
These skills enable individuals to make healthy, active choices that are both beneficial to and respectful of their whole self, others, and their environment.
Our Christmas sport wish list therefore asks for a government that is committed to facilitating the emergence of physically literate Vincentians such that the society will comprise people who are more confident in life regarding their decisions relating to movement.
For St Vincent and the Grenadines we therefore wish for awareness programmes regarding physical literacy and physical activity across the entire society.
If the government is serious about sport then it can only begin at the point of facilitating a culture of physical literacy.
We wish for physical education to be made compulsory at all levels of the education system beginning with the pre-schools.
Chester Morgan, a graduate from schooling in Venezuela, has already prepared a draft physical education curriculum for the pre schools in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Ministry of Education can have its curriculum development officers assess the draft curriculum and determine whether or not is needs to be tweaked before being implemented.
That Morgan could have undertaken such an important initiative is indicative of his commitment to the development of physical education in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Suffice it to say that he has also drafted a Physical Education for the Primary schools in the country. Additionally, recognising the limitations in the physical education system at the secondary school level he has also prepared a draft syllabus for the first three forms.
We are not always appreciative of initiatives by Vincentians but when it is deserving we ought not to turn a blind eye.
Morgan is aware that there may well be weaknesses in his drafts but he has put something in writing that kick-starts the process.
Currently physical education is not officially ion the syllabus of the pre and primary schools in this nation and what we do at the secondary school level is in dire need of a comprehensive review. Our Christmas sport wish list therefore calls for the authorities to go beyond merely talking about physical education by implementing a comprehensive programme in the nation’s schools consistent with the commitment to cultivating a culture of physical literacy.
The Physical Education and Sports Association (PESTA) has been in existence for several years. For much of its existence the membership concerned themselves with the various sport competitions that take place between schools at the secondary level.
PESTA comprises the physical education teachers of the nation’s secondary schools.
Our Christmas wish list is for a review of PESTA. Is it not possible to upgrade PESTA to a subject association that encompasses teachers of physical education at all levels of the education system as well as officials who may not be teaching but are graduates of physical education and who are keen on collaborating to facilitate the development of the subject in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
A Physical education subject association can play a major role in the development of a culture of physical literacy in St Vincent and the Grenadines, thereby laying a stronger foundation for the development of sport in the nation.
It is not possible to develop a meaningful sport programme without being grounded in physical literacy.
It is to an association such as is being addressed here that we can therefore turn for research and development of physical education and sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines going forward.
Physical education and sport are considered science subjects. They are not the result of hit or miss approaches. They are well researched subjects.
Physical education and sport development strategies are not intended to be part of a broader one-size-fits-all approach. They are increasingly country specific in many respects. While like most subjects there are certain common fundamentals it is increasingly found that what works for Jamaicans are not necessarily going to work for Bajans or for Ethiopians. This makes the case for more indigenous research by our graduates in physical education and sport. It is to these academics and practitioners that we must turn for guidance founded on local research. They are the ones to create models for our children and youths, indeed, for all of Vincentian society.
School sports competitions
Our Christmas sports wish list also calls for consideration to be given to revisiting the sport competitions in and between schools.
Let me begin by insisting here that the in vogue belief by many of our educators that sport competitions constitute a loss of instructional time reflects a failure to adequately understand the role of physical education and sport in the holistic development of the individual. This therefore must also be reviewed.
Schools must engage in a systematic review of the role of sport competitions within their respective institutions and this must be reflected in the scheduling of such competitions.
There is no reason why major sport competitions within schools cannot be held after school or over the weekends. The fact that some would readily squirm at the foregoing suggestion is evidence of our lack of understanding of the importance of a culture of physical literacy and sport in the country.
Schools tend to ignore that in their overall development of the students in their charge past students have a critical role. Not enough attention is paid to engendering a school culture that keeps students connected. In the fast paced digital age it does appear that the Girls High School best displays the use of social media to keep past students connected to the institution. However, not enough attention is being paid to connecting the past students to successive generations of students generally across St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Past students who are connected to their alma mater in a meaningful way are always anxious to be part of the sport competitions organised by their former institutions. This reality needs to be exploited to the full.
Past students enjoy competitions between their old schools and those institutions that once posed a challenge to their institution when they were in school. Not enough use is made of this fact to impact the way we organise and the scheduling of these competitions.
Generally, not enough marketing is done of competitions between schools. The more popular sports are given more marketing attention and this impacts the overall situation.
In many of the larger Caribbean countries school sports are not managed by the Ministry of Education. In many instances where the inter schools sports competitions are raised to a high level of proficiency and rivalry for bragging rights, the competitions are administered by an association of schools or an organisation of principals and head teachers.
In several countries inter schools sports competitions have become a major source of funding for the schools. The funds are used to facilitate the development of stronger physical education and sports programmes as well as to facilitate the upgrading of much-needed equipment and facilities at the schools that are in no way related to physical education and sport.
The private sector, anxious to reap the benefit of youth interest in their products readily rush to sponsor inter schools sports competitions since they see this as an important long-term revenue generation option.
Our Christmas sports wish list therefore calls for an extensive but scientific analysis of the immense potential resident in sports within and between schools in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
We have raised a few important foundational issues here in respect of challenging us to think outside the norm. Many may find the items targeted here a bitter pill to swallow.
The intention is to jog us into looking more closely at what we do in respect of physical education and sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Are we satisfied with what currently obtains?
I dare suggest that we are not.
We are tired of merely getting to a competition but not mounting the podium. The challenge here is to commence the discourse.