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STUDY YUH BOOK! by Rae Samuel

posted 7 May 2015, 20:46 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 7 May 2015, 20:47 ]
A significant event has occurred in the South Eastern Educational Division which will not make the 7 o'clock news or the back pages of the dailies. It is that the district will not be participating in the annual Primary Schools National Games carded for mid-May. It is also a minor, really minor, footnote to many, in a year when our track and field falters badly. We won 2 golds in the sprints in Carifta and really under performed at the just concluded World relays. Even the West Indies cricket team won a game not against Bangladesh or Zimbabwe, but then we continue to rely on our 2008 veterans to lead the way in 2015 which says so much about our development programmes. 

But back to South Eastern's non-participation. In these Districts the divisional games have been funded by corporate sponsors for years: Milo in Port of Spain, NGC in Caroni and St. Patrick and Atlantic Energy in South Eastern. Sponsorship has not been the problem. Due diligent enquiry, carried out by this journalist revealed that it was a question of financial accountability as in record keeping. So everything was put on hold till that problem was/is resolved which apparently it has not been.

So the solution, or means of finding one, had created a much larger problem, i.e. the absence of South Eastern

Those of us in the towns or communities where the club system is developed or where stadia are a few minutes away may not appreciate what these games do in these counties. It allows mass participation unlike the team sports. Track and field is running/jumping/throwing individually in 7 events. Parents and communities get behind the youngsters to make it to the Stadium in town for the final. The communities and schools are still social enough to look forward to the outing. Moruga Games are a fine example of this.

Contrast this with Hampton's International heats where hundreds of youngsters participated in what turned out to be a lead up event to the National games. This type of activity and opportunity is routine to most of them.

The other set back is cancellation of training programmes in the rural areas for the qualifiers. Such programmes have been developed through some sponsors as part of the youngsters’ development. What occurs naturally in places such as Port of Spain, St. George East and the all conquering Tobago through their developed track and field culture, has to be nurtured through the schools down there.

The children are taught the basics not solely with competition in mind. Some of these children have to adjust to BEING on the track in a stadium. Don't laugh! Some of our great sprinters have told me of hearing their names called at a Grand Prix meet in front of 20 000 silent spectators at the start of a race and having to adjust to that.

Then there are 3 registered track and field clubs between San Fernando and Guayaguayare. How they manage and survive is a story of dedication and commitment. The biggest challenge in 2016 will be to motivate a generation of fickle teachers and disappointed parents to maintain an interest. Given our political and administrative culture it is very easy to become cynical and to tell the children 'study yuh book'. Children will also migrate to other sports where there is more opportunity for participation. Compare organising football games, cricket or netball matches to an athletic meet. The latter too are all year round while track and field is seasonal.

I have suggested to some of the persons involved that there be a comprehensive review of how track and field is run/done in our school system. No no, no!! Not the Jamaican model which will NOT work here for historical and cultural reasons. Track and field cannot help drive education in Trinidad and Tobago the way it does, has done in Jamaica. My suggestion is based on the calamitous decline of the Secondary Schools’ meets where at National finals athletes and officials seem to outnumber spectators and of course events being described in this article.

Unfortunately the Teachers union, the governing body for track and field and an insufficient number of parents do not see these issues as their business...which it really is