As happens in sports, generally, there have been comments from all sides regarding the state of the sport competitions around the country. Some of the comments have much merit while others fall by the wayside as decidedly inconsequential, lacking informed bases.
There was a time when the portfolio was designated, Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport. Today we have the Ministry of Education, National Reconciliation and Ecclesiastical Affairs, on the one hand and the Ministry of Tourism, Sport and Culture on the other.
While serving in the dual capacity of Hon. Minister of Education and Deputy Prime Minister, Girlyn Miguel insisted that sport in and between schools should remain under the purview of her portfolio, leaving sport in the community and broader national stage in the hands of the Ministry
There is therefore an Education Officer Physical Education and Sport in the Ministry of Education, National Reconciliation and Ecclesiastical Affairs in the personage of Ms Rosmund Griffith, under the direct supervision of the head of the Curriculum Development Unit, Mrs Aldia Dyer. There is also Mr Jomodean May, directly responsible for sports between schools in the Ministry of Education, National Reconciliation and Ecclesiastical Affairs and an assistant to both himself and Ms Griffith in Mr Daniel.
Writing the introduction to the National School Sport Policy, then Deputy Chief Education Officer, now the Chief Education Officer, Ms Beverly Neptune, declared, “Over the years, there has been a paradigm shift in School Sports and Physical Education Programme across nations. This shift is due to policy decisions taken by many governments to make P.E. and Sports an integral part of the curriculum offerings at the varying levels of the school system. In fact, the research suggests that the curriculum for every child’s preschool through secondary experience should include the opportunity to participate in quality physical education programmes and other health enhancing physical activity.
“In this regard, our P.E. and Sports programmes are geared towards contributing significantly to the holistic development of our young people and focus on students’ participation in a wide range of independent and team activities, as articulated in our National Curriculum and Assessment Framework (2005).”
She also stated, “the Ministry of Educations is therefore committed to supporting a culture of P.E. and Sports, which incorporates the values of sportsmanship, discipline, perseverance, teamwork, self-confidence and fair play.”
Under a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Education, National Reconciliation and Ecclesiastical Affairs and the Division of Sport of the Ministry of Tourism Sport and Culture, the officials of the two institutions work together to ensure that the facilities are adequately prepared to allow the annual inter schools’ competitions are conducted in a manner consistent with requisite standards as per the regulations of the respective international sports federations (IF).
The National Schools Sports Policy stipulates the establishment of Sub Committees to plan, execute and manage each of the competitions, being ever cognizant of the critical role that sport in schools plays in the long term development of the sport.
The Policy states, “the Schools Games Committee shall establish a Sub Committee for each of the sports for which there are competitions between the nation’s educational institutions. These Sub Committees shall also serve as the Organising Committee for the particular competitions planned and administered in any given academic year. The chairperson of each such Sub Committee shall be the representative of the respective national federation (NF) and it is expected that such individual shall be appropriately qualified in the administrative and technical aspects of the particular sport. The other members of each Sub Committee shall comprise but not be limited to:
- The Deputy Chief Education Officer of the Ministry of Education, National Reconciliation and Ecclesiastical Affairs)
- The Education Officer responsible for PE and Sport in Schools
- Representative of the Accounts Department of the Ministry of Education
- Representative of the Secondary Schools Principals Association
- Representative of the Primary Schools Principals Association
- Representative of the Physical Education Teachers Association
- Representative of the Education Media Unit
- Representative of the Ministry responsible for Sport (now the Ministry of Tourism, Sport and Culture)
- Representative of the National Sports Council
- Representative of the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment
- Representative of the Sports Medicine Association (inclusive of the Red Cross)
- Representative of the Ministry of National Security
Each Sub Committee is free to engage such other persons and/or institutions deems capable of making a contribution to its mandate.
One is not at all certain that the leadership of the respective national sports associations are aware of the awesome responsibility that befalls their organisations when designated head of the particular Sub Committee. Additionally, it is incumbent on the respective agencies nominating representatives to serve on the various Sub Committees to ensure that they take their responsibilities seriously and report on developments within the organisations they serve.
The Schools Games Committee expects that each of the Sub Committees would readily formulate annual programmes consistent with their broader national development strategies of which school sports form an integral part and a critically important stage.
Over the years however, several of the Sub Committees have unfortunately failed to satisfy the lofty ideas set by the Schools Games Committee and this remains a recurring problem. There is a sense in which the broader sport development in schools cannot progress as intended
Despite the numerous challenges however the Schools Games Committee has commenced the inter schools’ competitions for the current 2017/8 academic year.
The annual inter schools’ Table Tennis competition commenced last Wednesday at the West St George Secondary School, in Belair, an arena that has literally become as close to a home for the sport as is possible in the country under the current circumstance. The competition runs through to 20 October and involves 21 Primary and 24 Secondary schools, the largest participation in this competition since it has started. This augurs well for the development of the sport.
The significantly increased participation in the Table Tennis competition comes against the backdrop of the development work that the association and the recently formed Vincy Table Tennis Inc., a foundation for the sport that was started by Georg Silberschmidt, an expert who did some work here some time ago.
By the end of 2017 every school in St Vincent and the Grenadines should have at least one table tennis board on which students can learn the game. This is the development pathway being forged with special emphasis on utilisation of the Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model.
The annual inter schools football competition begins today and is scheduled to run through to 24 November.
As has happened in the past efforts would be made to utilise mostly Tuesdays and Thursdays and occasionally, on Fridays.
This year there is a concerted effort being made to afford all schools the opportunity to play more games than hitherto. There were complaints in the past about the groupings being such that some schools only got to play two games for all of their investment in uniforms and preparation for the competition.
Care is nonetheless being taken to ensure that the students involved in the competition are not unduly burdened such that there is a conflict with their studies.
Football remains the nation’s single most popular sport and it is expected that this year’s competition would see improvement in the standard of the sport, given the developmental work that has been undertaken in the aftermath of the association’s involvement in the LTAD programme.
There is increasing interest in a national discourse in the engagement of schools’ sport competitions outside of the scheduled school hours.
In several of the neighbouring Caribbean countries sport competitions amongst schools are held in the afternoon, following the conclusion of official classes. This approach lends itself to increased participation in sport as well as engagement of the community and past students of participating schools in the activities.
In several Caribbean countries inter schools sport competitions are organised and managed by the Principals Association and they are an important source of revenue shared amongst the participating schools. This revenue allows for the further development of sport in the respective schools as well as to procure much-needed equipment and other materials for their institutions.
Already, the Campden Park Secondary and the Central Leeward Secondary schools have started having their annual track and field competitions at the Victoria Park, starting in the afternoon and concluding in the evening under lights. The attendance figures have jumped significantly and the revenues are quite good. Other schools may well follow this trend.
We understand that parents and teachers as well as principals would initially be apprehensive about a change in the timing of sport competitions but the reality is that change may well be what is needed at this juncture. Changing the time of schools’ sport competitions may well facilitate increased interest in sport amongst students and ultimately, the community.
National sports associations must be involved alongside the Ministry of Education, National Reconciliation and Ecclesiastical Affairs and the Ministry of Tourism, Sport and Culture, to help ensure that sport in schools is an important component of the broader national sport development pathway.