Letters & Opinion

LETTER TO EDITOR – Island Champs 24

Dear Mr.Editor,

Please permit me a space to share my thoughts and observations on the recently held Island Champs 24.

Island Champs 24…hmm alot to ponder.
Last year, the decision to host this event on a Sunday was fought fervently by teachers. Let us remember that teachers are the front line workers in the education system, they are the ones who fit every cap between the hours of 9 to 3 and still their efforts are regarded as inconsequential. Nevertheless, they spoke and the decision was revoked.

This year however, this decision was taken very early, written on a stone tablet like a commandment. This year, the powers that be were deaf to last year’s concerns. After all, the Minister of Education extended kudos to the Minister of Sports for being adamant that a school event consisting of minors to young adults should be hosted on Sunday and begin at 1:00pm. Still, the event did not start on time and like last year, lacked the formality of any national event. Schools’ sports meets begin with march past, prayers, national anthem but this was absent for the second year in a row at national sports event. Are we saying that these ceremonial antiques have no place?

Mr.Editor, let us consider then, that with the incessant call for this event to be hosted on a Sunday and definitely not a Saturday, because one wouldn’t dare to impose on the day of worship of some, was the same consideration not given to those persons who do worship on a Sunday? Or, are we deciding for them that their day of worship is flexible and less important than others?

Furthermore, the Minister went on to say that there were so many principals and teachers there, out of the hundreds of teachers on island, was the possibly five percent attendance of teachers a sign of support? I know many teachers and principals who boycotted the event because they work from Monday to Friday. Who then was expected to supervise the children? Please do not insult me and say the parents. No caring teacher would have attended and not work on that day. Are we saying that teachers would see a student misbehaving and turn a blind eye when we so uncaringly infringe on their day off from work? Also, if the children were the responsibility of their families who we are so sure could attend, why then was the announcer asking teachers and school personnel to get the students inside? Mr.Editor, are teachers expected to volunteer their time because no front line workers have bright ideas?

Students Without Supervision

Mr.Editor, the reality is this, Island champs on a Sunday created a lack of control and supervision for school aged students. Students were on buses without supervision of an adult, drinking alcohol and arriving home at all odd hours. Is this part of the new branding?

Moreso Mr.Editor, did anyone not factor in rest for these students. Yes, STUDENTS! They are expected to give off their best for their schools in these events, complete academic tasks with excellence, do their chores, attend lessons, participate in extra curricular activities, run qualifiers until the Friday before and then be world champions on the Sunday. Aren’t they humans? Or is it that they are programmed with codes and formulas? Athletes looked exhausted running these races. The children need to be considered. What about earlier qualifiers and a week of rest? Also, if the idea is to move towards the international stage, why aren’t the heats aired as well as the field events? How can we forget the teachers, Mr.Editor, who leave their classes to accompany students, train them, nurture them, then having to meet their own deadlines, mark the work they get in their absence, make up classes, all while meeting their own family commitments and of course running down their human bodies. Are we only appreciating them with two days off, to miss more classes and have more work pile up?

Points Standing

How can one forget that not once was anyone made aware of the points standing even after teachers of schools went to ask? At the start of the meet, there was no indication of the points standing for the different schools. Yet at the end, winners are announced. Where is the transparency?

Mr.Editor, can you believe that at a national event, broadcast live and two persons of without any tact were the ones on the mics? Aren’t commentators and interviewers suppose to be neutral despite personal preferences? A student is winning the race Mr.Editor, yet the focus is on the student in second place all the while making excuses and assumptions why he or she is not getting the gold medal? If that was not enough repeated comment about the students from VFCSS “squeezing their way to the podium” when it was clear that the students worked hard to earn their places on the podium. Is that the level of sportsmanship that is being encouraged in the sports world? In a country plagued by so many social issues, are we going to encourage such demeaning comments? These are young people showing loyalty to their schools, some working on pure adrenaline because they were exhausted and their efforts are undermined like this?

It was also noticeable Mr.Editor, that at a national event, none of the more profilic sports announcers were present. I would hate to think that Soufriere was not large enough for their presence. Neutral commentators and interviewers are needed if this event will continue. A $100,000 sponsorship, yet the best of the best isn’t hired? Am I the only one puzzled Mr.Editor?

It was also appalling Mr.Editor, to witness how poorly some schools were treated. A noteworthy example is the students and teachers of VFCSS being told that they could not sit on the stands they occupied. I was stunned. I became even more angry when a police officer was called to the scene. Was that really necessary? All the students and teachers were clad in their school’s colours and all paid to enter the grounds, so why this harassment? It was admirable to see that the teachers did not give in to this nonsense. Does this preferential treatment still exists in 2024?

Mr. Editor, by all means friendly rivalry is encouraged but this was certainly not the case. The snide comments and obscenities hurled at students in the wash rooms, the poor sportsmanship on the track where students were visibly pushing others and going unpunished, blaming another athlete for another’s baton falling when the video shows clearly that the baton was not close to said student, awarding a gold medal to a student of another school when the video shows that the student in the orange won. Are we building athletes or teaching young people to be cheats and bullies Mr. Editor?

Sadly, to trash talk an athlete, one who has shown her prowess on the international stage is shameful. In such a volatile time, are going to keep encouraging derogatory comments like “they are so fast because they are used to running from bullets”. This is distasteful, insensitive and offensive. Why must we encourage all this hating because of talent and effort? The “Dasheen team” as I heard them being referred to, dominated despite all this. It is commendable that the students and teachers remained focused and did not respond. I am not sure that if I was in their place, this would be my reaction.

Mr.Editor, I am also so stunned but maybe you can assist me. Are we also teaching our children that it is acceptable to have alcohol at a sportsmeet as long as it is the officials having it?

Oh Mr.Editor, this Island Champ – the rebranding of Intersecondary school sports, hosted on a Sunday. Is it still a school activity or is this event for clubs? Have the powers that be, considered the number of students whom they robbed of experiencing this because their families could not take them nor do their teachers who would normally chaperone them during the week not work on Sundays? The national stadium was always filled to capacity as well as the other places where this was held years ago. Was collecting the $10 and $15 more important as oppose to the attendance of all secondary school students for which this meet is meant? Spectators who want to be there will be there no matter the day. This had been proven repeatedly. Mr.Editor was any consideration given for the persons who do not have a private vehicle? Have we forgotten that besides the Gros Islet bus route, no other bus system flows so readily on a Sunday?

Yet, it was a success, better than last year. Hmmm

However Mr.Editor, congratulations to all the students and their teachers and support staff. You guys showed up despite the lack of consideration for you. Hats off to the teachers who made Sunday 17th March, 2024 possible, youre truly flowers blossoming in concrete.

A Supporter of Good Decisions.

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