Is this what Calabar has come to?

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

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Thankfully , the board and leadership at Calabar High School have stepped in quickly to deal with the almost barbaric behaviour of some students during morning assembly on Monday.

Tens of thousands, and maybe millions of people would, by now, have seen the video posted on social media of students chanting the most vile and vulgar slurs against Kingston College (KC), the school that last Saturday ended Calabar's seven-year hold on the Inter-secondary School Sport Association (ISSA)/GraceKennedy Boys' Championship title.

As late Calabar old boy and Jamaican Olympic great Mr Herb McKenley could attest, losing a prestigious sporting title can be painful, and it is not uncommon for people, particularly fierce competitors, to become emotional.

However, one of the endearing tenets of sports is its encouragement of magnanimity by the victor and graciousness by the vanquished. That canon, we hope, is being instilled in our youth, especially those in school who are being groomed for leadership in the future.

The problem facing some schools, including Calabar, is that they place sporting success above academic achievements. As such, athletes and other students blessed with sporting skills are revered and given a “bly” when they breach rules and codes of behaviour, as well as when they underachieve academically.

We suspect that had Calabar, in due form, properly dealt with the complaints of physics teacher Mr Sanjaye Shaw against two of the school's star athletes, the ugly, despicable behaviour exhibited on Monday at the school would likely not have materialised.

We are therefore heartened by the board's swift and decisive response, in this instance, by opening an investigation, calling the principal of Kingston College, sending a written apology to the staff and students of KC, and arranging for a delegation of teachers and students from Calabar to go to KC this morning to participate in the school's devotion and to publicly offer the apology to the staff and students.

The board has also told us that the school's leadership “has met with the entire school population and conveyed its strong condemnation of the utterances which can only be described as disturbing, distasteful, vulgar and not in keeping with the positive values and attitudes” that they try to instil in the young men at Calabar.

That, we hold, is an important step, especially as the school was established by the Jamaica Baptist Union (JBU) in 1912 and has a proud record of educating and moulding poor young men into upright and decent citizens.

The JBU might wish to investigate the leadership of board Chairman Rev Karl Johnson and the acting principal, to determine whether discipline at the school has broken down, requiring that some heads roll over the incident.

Certainly, the behaviour on Monday does not live up to the school's motto: “The Utmost for the Highest”. It would be good, therefore that, in addition to the board's intervention, some of Calabar's more prominent and influential old boys — such as Former Prime Minister P J Patterson — visit the school as soon as possible to remind the current student cohort that Calabar is better than that.

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