School sports – a valued necessity

The recent announcement of the return of sports between the nation’s secondary schools has come as music to the ears of many a Vincentian student and those teachers who value sport. That these sports were stopped for some time served to highlight the lack of foresight on the part of those in authority in so far as the contribution that participation in sport brings to the development of the human personality.

Inter Ministry conflict
It is no secret in St Vincent and the Grenadines that the stalling of school sports emerged as a result of a conflict between two Ministries of the same government. The conflict started when the portfolio of Sport was removed from under that of Education. Readers may recall that following the general elections of December 2005 the government left Education by itself as a single portfolio Ministry and placed the portfolios of Youth and Sport under the Ministry of Tourism. Of course, before that, the Ministry was Tourism and Culture under Rene Baptiste. The new portfolio of Tourism, Youth and Sport fell under Glen Beache.
At the time of the shift in portfolios this Columnist was at pains to point to the fact that yet again Sport was not considered sufficiently important to the national development process to be designated a Ministry by itself and that we were being given a strong signal that it could only be presented as an adjunct, and the last one at that, to some other more important portfolio.
No sooner had the portfolio of Sport been shifted than the conflict began.
The Ministry of Education suddenly seemed to have had difficulty with the officers at the Division of Sports being allowed into the nation’s schools during school hours. While there may well be good reason for adopting such a stance here in this particular instance the reasoning seemed to have lacked substance.
After years of having the same persons work in the schools when the Division was attached to the Ministry of Education, the latter institution suddenly laid claims to a slew of reasons as to why this could no longer be tolerated.
The conflict meant that there was no organisation in place to assist with the organisation of Inter Schools Sports.
The matter of the conflict was brought to the attention of the Ministers of government in both Ministries. That yielded no change in the situation and no one could have offered any reasonable explanation for this tragedy.
The media got into the act with some writers and radio personalities, themselves teachers and in possession of information, bringing what they knew to the front burner of the public consciousness. That, too, did not change the situation.
Some suggested that the situation had grown so ridiculous that it was not possible for the Prime Minister not to have heard about it. The fact is that whether he knew or not the ridiculous situation remained intact.
The principals and teachers at the various educational institutions were unable to act and watched on in embarrassing amazement.
The children suffered as the government institutions quibbled among themselves.

The Physical Education and Sports Teachers Association (PESTA) was formed to follow the lines established by the Ministry of Education some time ago for the various subject areas to form associations. The intention is for these associations to facilitate the formation of a strong bond among those who work in the field and to engage themselves in the systematic development of their field of endeavour. Together they are expected to build the grouping in all aspects.
Since its formation PESTA has sought to bring its members together so that they could work in the best interest of the field in which they are engaged during the school week. From inception the organisation sought to work towards enhancing the scope of physical education and sport in the school system. As expected, given the importance they attached to the annual Inter Secondary Schools sporting competitions this aspect gained much of their attention.
Unfortunately however, while the Inter Ministry conflict reared its ugly head PESTA found itself left out among the woodwork, incapable of bridging the impasse.
For all of its good intentions therefore PESTA was rendered sterile.

Policy issues
Since the 1990s the NOC has provided the government of this country with a National Sports Policy. The Policy has been reviewed on several occasions.
The Mission Statement reads:
To ensure that all Vincentians have equal access to physical education, recreation and sports, both within the education system and other aspects of social life.
Let us for a moment ignore the ‘other aspects of social life’ since even with the proclamation of the so-called ‘Wellness Revolution’ we have paid absolutely no attention to this aspect of the Policy.