Schools football is now at a point where a more comprehensive plan to optimize its potential must be worked out

Dear Editor,

Within the structures of the school system, football is emerging as a very popular and well supported sport.  At the Ministry of Education, we have seen a number of entities coming forward to support and sponsor football activities at the Primary, Secondary and the Post-Secondary levels.  In addition to the more national and widely publicized tournaments sponsored by Digicel, Scotia Bank/Pepsi, Milo, Courts Guyana, Chico and others, events solidly coordinated by the Petra Organization, Kashif and Shanghai, the Guyana Sports Development Foundation and other well-run regional and community based events ensure year-round participation.

We certainly welcome this support, since, as we have always maintained, these activities complement the other aspects of the educational process.  Given the level of interest, schools’ football is now at a point in Guyana where a more comprehensive plan regarding optimizing the deep potential it possess must be worked out.   As with everything in education, this must start with some clear consideration being given to the students involved and what is in their best interest.  We do the nation’s children a grave injustice if we simply allow them to go onto the field of play and perform without discussing all of the elements that can ensure that the engagement goes beyond the game itself and contributes to a meaningful personal developmental experience.    We must clearly define for ourselves who we want emerging from these experiences and shape and define our programmes to produce exactly that.  For too long we have been settling for “what we get” and this has to be replaced with a more proactive, outcome oriented approach to youth development.  This certainly is not the ideal place to define all facets of such an approach, however at the least we should ensure that our programmes are producing balanced, independent, critical thinkers, who possess a healthy awareness of self while respecting others, who possess life skills well beyond the skills demonstrated on the playing field, who have a healthy appetite for knowledge and an awareness of how to transfer their innate skills into securing a productive future for themselves.  Schools can assist greatly in achieving these outcomes however it is the collective involvement of all stakeholders that will ensure its total success.

From the outset, all of the respective “power-brokers” need to meet and devise a common vision and the pathway for realizing same.  For too long the major entities have been operating in their respective silos at the expense of the real development that can occur in this sector.  It would be sad if any of those individuals see this as a finger pointing exercise rather than the call for collective engagement that it is; and nothing emerges from this.  We have a prime opportunity here that should not be squandered.  At the same time, there is a proliferation of lessons out there regarding those who seek to use young people simply for a calculated profit and we must guard against that as we devise our development plan for the sport.  We cannot be naïve and not recognize that this is a viable, thriving industry across the world and people will attempt to exploit it here in Guyana.  At the same time, we cannot rob ourselves of the array of benefits that can accrue from a well structured football and athletic developmental plan in general.  To that end, the Ministry of Education is willing to engage all well-meaning entities in outlining a plan for the future of our nation’s talented youth.

Yours faithfully,

Olato Sam

Chief Education Officer

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