Under the theme ‘Securing our Future through Education and Sporting Excellence’, the Inter-Schools Sports Program for 2013-2014 kicked off in high gear, with a formal opening last Thursday at the Beausejour Indoor Facility. Once again it is spearheaded by the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Human Resource Development and Labour.
Special guests included acting prime minister, Moses Jn Baptiste; minister of Youth Development and Sports, Shawn Edward; minister of Education, Dr Robert Lewis; minister of commerce, Emma Hippolyte; permanent secretary in the ministry of Youth Development and Sports, Fortuna Belrose; multi sportswoman of the year, Levern Spencer; Corporate Communications Manager/St Lucia Electricity Services Limited (LUCELEC), Roger Joseph and divisional head of marketing and Corporate Communication, Consolidated Foods Limited (CFL), Sariah Best Joseph. Also in attendance were physical education teachers, staff of the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports and students from various secondary schools. Sports officer Michael Midget Pierre handled the proceedings.
For those who continue to think sports and education does not mix think again. Almost all the names mentioned above starting with the minister of sports and ending with the MC, were involved in sports in one way or another and benefitted immensely from it.
Dr Lewis, as he’s mentioned so many times before, spoke about the correlation between sports and academics. He mentioned two shining examples most notably world ranked high jumper Levern Spencer and Dr Vernetta Lesporis.
Lewis said: “All the persons who have gone on to scholarships from St Lucia they have achieved two things. They made sure their educational aspect is intact and their sporting excellence is also there. Every time I think about young dynamic athletes, especially sprint athletes and their academics coming through, I always think of Dr Lesporis.”
With good reason! Dr Lesporis who is presently with the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports and competed at the Sydney Olympics, has her bachelor and masters degrees in physical education and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The Minister of Education went on to say: “I think it’s about time parents get to realize the importance of sports in the lives of their children in school. Too many times parents are only concentrating on the academic aspect.”
Dr Lewis called on principals and physical education teachers to dedicate a segment of PTA meetings, to talk about the nature of sports in education and said “if we can get the schools to do that and get parents to buy in to the importance of it we will go further.”
Being the next to last speaker, Minister Edward acknowledged it was a challenging task not repeating what had previously been said. He began by saying: “Today’s ceremony quite apart from commencing the different competitions you will be engaged in as athletes and students. Today’s ceremony sends a very clear signal and message to you the young sportsmen and women of our country and that is as a government we take sports seriously.”
He dismissed the notation of participation in sports being just a part time thing or hobby and remarked “through your participation in sports you can realize your goals.”
With the strong belief that academics must coincide with sports, Edward mentioned that earlier this year his ministry awarded four scholarships to athletes, who emerged from last year’s competitions organized by the ministry.
During his brief address Acting Prime Minister, Jn Baptiste touched on the exploits of Levern Spencer, West Indies Cricket Captain Darren Sammy along with teammate Johnson Charles saying: “The aim of this government is really to cause youth development and sports to be at the heart of our national development strategy. “Our aim is to cause sports to be removed from what we call extracurricular activities. Our aim is to cause the conscious and the value of our nation to be heralded through excellence in sports,” he added.
Like the previous speakers, Jn Baptise praised LUCELEC and CFL for once again making substantial contributions to the School Sports Program.
Referring to the sponsors he said: “You provide the oil. We may have all of the talent, but if we do not have that oil which causes us to keep going and going we will not get very far.”