Minister of Education Emmalin Pierre has sent out an ominous threat to the nation’s school principals and teachers that she expects them to participate in the government-organised National Secondary School sports that will be held as a replacement for the cancelled Intercol games.
The association grouping Secondary School principals took the decision not to hold any Intercol in 2019 as part of the ongoing impasse with the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government on demands by teachers and public officers for 25% gratuity and pension payment.
Government is offering 8% on the grounds that it cannot afford any more in keeping with the Fiscal Responsibility Legislation (FRL) signed with the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) to keep expenditure spending in line with revenue intakes.
Speaking to reporters at the post-Cabinet Press briefing last week Wednesday, Minister Pierre sought to remind the school principals and teachers that the dates selected for hosting the games, March 6, 15, 22 and April 5 will be regular school days and she expected them to participate.
According to the female government minister, she held a meeting with the School Principals and Physical Education Teachers two weeks ago to explain the situation to them.
“All of these meets would be regular school days so we will be having the participation of the students and teachers at those meets,” she said.
The female government minister did not address the issue of what action government might take against the Principals and Teachers if they stayed away from the games.
Government had docked the salaries of teachers at the end of November for taking strike action to press their demands for the 25% payment.
The Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT), bargaining body for teachers, has announced that it will be taking action against the Mitchell-led government since it considered the action as illegal.
Minister Pierre told reporters that a number of persons have indicated their willingness to volunteer their services and time to make sure that the government-promoted games was successful, and that there was interest from private sector companies to offer sponsorship.
“Many persons have been calling to indicate their support for the games and to also indicate that they are volunteering in one way or the other – whichever way they can be utilised to make this a success”, she said.
“Thus far, a number of private companies have been calling to express interest. We have not settled as to whether we are going with one titled sponsor or whether or not we are going to have a number of private sector companies contributing to the sports meet”, she added.
Minister Pierre was flanked by Coordinators of the game, Kerlon Peters from the Ministry of Sports and Jerry Alexis from the Ministry of Education.
Peters said that the games will be held on zonal basis in March with the grand final to be held at the Kirani James Athletic Stadium at Queen’s Park on April 5.
“We have been promoting for a while our Parish Coordinator Programme, our community programmes to help develop the sports through the community. We remember the days that we had the sports in the different villages and the excitement that it brought. So, our coaches have been working in the parish to help develop all aspect of the sporting need both at community level, at a school level. So, the idea of introducing the zone sports to help to fill the absence of the Intercol games, it was not difficult”, he said.
According to Peters, the zones have already been mapped out for the respective secondary schools with the schools in the southern region being looped together from Westerhall, St. David to those in St. George’s Town and Boca competing in Tanteen on March 6.
The sports on the 15th of March, we will move to the schools on the western side of the island including Happy Hill Secondary, McDonald College, St. Rose Secondary will do battle at Cuthbert Peters Park in Gouyave on March 15.
March 22 is the date set aside for the secondary schools like St. David’s Catholic, Grenville, Secondary and St. Andrew’s Anglican Secondary School (SAASS) to battle it out at Grenville.
Peters said that on the same day, the schools in Carriacou and Petite Martinique that are grouped in the Northern Zone will have their own sporting day.
The Sports Co-ordinator announced that the athletes will compete in the Categories of Under-9, Under-15, Under-17, Under-20 and 20-Plus at the zonal levels with the two best persons from each category going forward into the finals.
“The objective is to give the athletes a higher level of competition, to help build their performance and their participation, enabling them to get better time, better standards, so that we could all be happy at the end of the day,” he said.
Alexis, who is the Deputy Chair of the Organising Committee, pointed out that the games were necessary in light of the cancelled Intercol to provide an opportunity for those athletes who are seeking scholarship from overseas schools.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for us because many of us know that many of our students are looking forward towards scholarships – the opportunity to get into a Junior college in the United States and some university out there and sports is a platform for that. When we realised that this (Intercol) wasn’t happening, we saw it fit to use the opportunity to have something in place so that these kids could compete on a level that can provide that opportunity for them,” he remarked.