An Open Letter to the Minister of Education
by Ayesh Ranawaka
( October 15, 2017, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) I have written about this issue very often. I have researched on it. I stress this again and again because if one single child dies doing this sport, there is no point winning a single game, let alone a hundred. The life of a child is more important that some trophy. That is why I stress that there should be a proper mechanism, a formulation to the school sports, in the sense that it is equal to every school allowing the students their childhood as well. Some schools, especially in the sport of rugby, train their students even more than the New Zealand All Blacks are trained. If every school is given an equal opportunity and equal regulations, there will be an even platform.
It is through school sports that we create sportsmen. That is how it should be. However, this “Winning at any cost” with bigshot coaches is the issue here. These coaches are given a goal – to either win the Big Match or some other match and it is towards this goal that they look towards. These coaches will simply achieve that single goal instead of creating players good enough for national level. These students are created to win matches not to be good at the sport, and thus, they will not have the potential to compete on a national level. This is a great loss to the country.
What are these high tier schools achieving after spending such a lot of money? Several children from smaller schools migrate to big schools, but these children are also left with nothing in the end. It is easy for a talented student to shine in a small school, but they are lost when they become a part of a higher tier school. They are lost on all sides. There should be several rules and regulations to curb this. Talented children will not get a chance to shine because although sponsors spend money akin to creating professional players, what happens is the coaches simply win matches and the children are neglected.
They are exempted from exams, they do not attend class, but their attendance is marked and they don’t even have time for extra classes. In the end, they have nothing left. No sport or education. Children do not get opportunities because of a privileged few.
This student poaching for the sake of a sport is simply illegal. The only way a student can be enrolled into a new school is either in Grade 1, Grade 6 or Grade 12 based on their academic achievements. It is not legal to just poach a student from another school to play a sport.
From what I know, there is a rule from the Sri Lanka School sports authorities that if a student is taken from another school, they are not allowed to represent the new school for one season or two. The issue here is that there are no such rules that stop a school considered to be better from poaching players from the schools of lower tiers.
Furthermore, many of these students who are in to school sports, very rarely get good results for exams like the Ordinary Levels or the Advanced Levels. This is because, while they don’t sometimes even take part in their term tests, they miss a lot of classes due to practices. These children sacrifice their education for this. This is one of the major sacrifices they make, and all for nothing, because in the end, they get bumped off or benched because imports play the game.
There are coaches, the members of the school advisory committees and the sponsors are all involved in this decision. If this goes on, how will a good product be born out of the school? There is so much more involved in this matter than just putting the decision on parents and principals. The only result we get out of this is upgrading the profiles of the coaches because of winning teams. The team spirit, school spirit and even the individual’s own strength and spirit is destroyed by these actions.
Further, I kindly request you to take the following steps via the education ministry to regulate this issue.
1. There should be a budget control. A uniform amount of money should be allowed to each and every school. So that there will be no disparities between schools. Because the gap between what prestigious school have and what schools of lower tiers have is increasing at a very fast pace. This disparity must be regulated in order to create an equal playground.
2. Sports (at least one sport) should be made mandatory for all students. There should also be a marking scheme from a very young age as to where and what these students have participated in.
3. Practices should be banned during school hours. Students should first and foremost focus on their education.
4. The ground sports should be restricted to just three days of practice a week. Because these children have classes to attend, homework to do, clubs and societies to be involved in.
5. There should also be regulations to check the nutrition of these students. They are given high proteins and steroids to bulk up for the sport, which in turn makes the students sick in the latter part of their lives. Furthermore, the training schedules of these children should also be regulated.
6. Finally, the coaches should be monitored, because there have been a lot of complaints regarding the use of abusive language and child harassment.
In many other countries, from eight in the morning until school is over, the importance is given to education, not the sport. Sports are considered to be extra-curricular activities – after school activities. After school, if you wish to pursue sports, you may join a club, where you pay a certain amount and become part of the team. That is how the sport was played, in many other developed countries.
But, that is not the case here. This is a country with free education and the sport is also considered to be an aspect of free education. There are teachers and coaches for the sport as well within the school. In a country like that, if we do not make the proper use of it. The biggest destruction that can occur is that we create a future generation of children who do not know sports, or physical education, who is not a part of any sport. This leads to a massive decline in the child’s health and physical aspects. Obesity, laziness etc are all a consequence of this. Over to your Mr. Minister of Education.