Jamaica Gleaner / Children at play is a subject that is very dear to my heart. This important part of a child’s life should be under the watchful eyes of adults who have not only a deep and sustained interest in the welfare of the child, but also the health of the child at play. The school environment is the best place for this supervised activity that is vital for the holistic development of the child.
Last week, a British newspaper printed an article bemoaning the death of a 16-year-old child who took his own life after being rejected by a high profile Football team. A team that had recruited him as a 13 year old and pampered him (as a talented and great footballer), only, to reject him when the time came for him to graduate to the first team.
The coroner at his inquest is quoted thus: “I think it is very difficult to build up hopes of a young man, and further to be dashed at a critical age when a boy becomes a man. To be found wanting in every way. It’s very cruel.”
The youngster was “a bright and happy child who was a talented footballer”.
Mark Wignall, writing in The Sunday Gleane r, highlights the case of a youngster from Red Hills Primary in 2007, who was transferred from Edith Dalton James High to a name-brand high school for the sole purpose of assisting his new school in winning at sports. Wignall reports on the work of Dr Lascelve ‘Muggy’ Graham, who has spent a lot of time highlighting the matter of name brand high schools with sporting prowess poaching the talent of student athletes of lesser known schools.
Here is my story about how I came to be a disciple of Muggy Grahams’ group of like-minded adults who are bent on highlighting the wrongs of this unjust and unfair practice.
Some years ago, concerned adults connected to a name brand high school with sporting prowess, asked me to examine a young man with a football injury, who despite multiple expensive investigations and consultations with different medical experts, was just not getting any better. After examination and review of his previous investigations, I had the opportunity to have a one on one conversation with the young man without the presence of his handlers and financiers.
The youngster, whom I will call Joe, for anonymity, was born and lived in a depressed community near to the high school of his heart. He learnt football and honed his skills in a nearby public park, where he played daily. Every summer however, he would spend his holidays at the school of his heart watching football practice. Soon, if not enough boys were present on a particular day, he would be invited to play with the squad.
He was good, and his talent was utilised more, and more frequently until eventually after training in the evenings, he would be given a lift home. He asked his new found friends how he could be a permanent part of the squad and he was told to study hard and pass his exam, then let the adults know his grade and “we will see”.
So said, so done. He passed the necessary exam, but as in the Mark Wignall story, not good enough to get into the school of his choice. That was, as promised, “not a problem”, and soon he was a bona-fide student at the school of his heart. He easily made the junior teams at his new school and was a hero in his community. He had “made it”. Then came the pre-season training for the Manning Cup. He was invited to the preseason training and camp.
Joe told me that during the preseason practices, seven, yes seven, new boys joined the group, and in Joe’s own words: “Dem did good”. Joe got less and less playing time and it was painfully obvious that he would not be able to make the team. Therefore before the squad was cut, he “produced” an injury. Joe’s injury was the only way he knew to explain to his friends and adults in his community why he was off the team. Joe told me that “dem buy the new guys”. The footballer in the Guardian newspaper article, committed suicide. Joe pretended to be ill.
There will be the usual denial by School administrators that children are bought and sold annually, just as it was in the dark days of our past, when Africans were bought and sold by ship captains and plantation owners. But as Mark Wignall outlined, “one year’s rent and free books, lunch money and everything”, was the price agreed between a struggling mother and the envoys from the name brand school. In the case outlined by Wignall, the young man is now unemployed, and living with this mother, Edith Dalton James High School lost a potential winner while the buying school, loaded with talent, some bought, some coerced, some home grown, had no use for the young boy, as they had essentially made sure that the potential sprinting rival was now safely in their control.
When will the powers that be, the ‘bigger heads’, ISSA, realise that this practice is wrong and severely damages the psyche of these children who “have their hopes dashed at a critical age, when a boy becomes a man”?
The abuse of our children takes many forms. If it is not stopped, we can continue to be ‘shocked’ at child suicide and bizarre anti-social behaviour. It is up to us the adults, the parents, the teachers, the coaches the recruiters to DO SOMETHING.
JAMAICA: The Wright View | Children at play
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