Rough ride to Jamaica

Kingston College’s Ugandan student/athlete makes costly sacrifice to improve his life

BY HG HELPS Editor-at-Large

Saturday, March 18, 2017

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When the guardians of Ugandan boy Aryamanya Rodgers decided to explore the possibility of getting him to live and learn in Jamaica, little did they know that the journey would have been so rocky on so many fronts.

Rodgers, the now 16-year-old student of Kingston College (KC) who is an accomplished middle- and long-distance runner, has been placed under the microscope by people opposed to his participation in the annual Boys’ and Girls’ Athletics Championship at the National Stadium in Kingston later this month. Now, he is suffering emotionally from all that has transpired, the school’s principal has stated.

In the latest situation, Calabar High School has objected to Rodgers’ participation on the basis that the youngster did not meet stipulated registration deadlines as imposed by the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA), which administers high school sports islandwide.

It follows a trail of woe during Rodgers’ travels, as he was refused a United States visa in his homeland, stopped from entering other countries and had to be going to and from Uganda with the uncertainty of his final destination hovering over his head.

But one of the chilling challenges that he faced was being forced, at gunpoint, by Kenyan soldiers, to hand over his money, along a route that he had not originally planned to take on the trip to Jamaica.

A relative who was travelling with him suffered the same fate.

"When they had to go through Kenya, which is for the most part a military state, they had to go through a number of military posts," a source close to Rodgers’ relatives related to the Jamaica Observer.

"At one point they would not allow them to go beyond a certain point and the soldiers took away all the money that the family member had, and took away most of Ary’s money.

"Luckily for Ary, his uncle in the United States had told him that when he is travelling he should not put all his money in one place. So he hid a certain amount of US dollars, which the soldiers could not find when they searched him, and that’s how he managed to get around a bit," the source said.

But how did it all begin?

In June 2016, Rodgers’ guardian, Reuben Twijukye, contacted KC in writing, seeking to have the young athlete attend the institution that remains the most successful in athletic achievements among Jamaican schools.

He was officially accepted by KC on July 11, and registered on July 18, 2016, based upon documentation obtained by the
Sunday Observer.

Rodgers’ original travel date to Jamaica was August 24, 2016, but after leaving the Ugandan capital of Kampala to board a flight to Germany for further connections to Jamaica, the airline, Ethiopian Air, refused to board him on the basis that he did not have a visa to enter Germany. This came after the airline got clearance from the German Embassy which said that because the youth was transiting, he should be allowed to board the aircraft. The airline refused, resulting in the cost of the ticket being lost.

Even after several diplomatic interventions, the airline still refused to board him, insisting that he needed a visa to land in Germany, even though the German Embassy wrote to the airline to say that Rodgers should be allowed to board.

It was at that point that his guardian decided to explore the route of Kenya to Germany, and then on to Montego Bay on Condor Airlines.

But after travelling by bus from neighbouring Uganda to the airport at Kenya’s second largest city, Mombasa, to board the flight for the onward journey to Germany, Rodgers was turned down again — once more the story of his needing a visa landed in his lap.

It was while he was returning from the airport that the Kenyan soldiers took away his money and that of his relative.

Rodgers’ connections later learned of a flight from the Ugandan city of Entebbe, about which a popular film was made, that would get him to Curacao via The Netherlands and on to Jamaica.

The film,
Victory at Entebbe, shot in 1976 and which had frontline stars including Anthony Hopkins, Bert Lancaster, Liz Taylor and Kirk Douglas, was based on a raid by Israeli soldiers on the same airport to free Israeli hostages, and featured actor Julius Harris portrayed as former Ugandan President and strongman Idi Amin.

After all the fuss, Rodgers arrived in Jamaica on Sunday, October 16, and had his first day in class on Tuesday, October 18.

ISSA’s Rules and Regulations 14 (a) states that for an athlete to take part in any competition under its management "the competitor must be registered in the school by 30th September in the school year".

The ISSA management committee decided last week that Rodgers would be allowed to compete at ‘Champs’ in class two, but this has not gone down well with members of the Calabar High fraternity, who insist that ISSA should indicate, in writing, how the decision was arrived at to allow the Ugandan to compete, as he was not actually in school as at September 30.

Calabar’s Principal Albert Corcho, who, ironically was shortlisted and interviewed for the job of principal of KC five years ago when Dave Myrie, the current KC principal, was chosen ahead of him and five others, objected publicly to the manner in which he said the members of the ISSA committee handled the matter.

Corcho, also a former principal of Munro College in St Elizabeth, Tarrant High School in Kingston, and senior teacher at Campion College who was appointed headmaster of Calabar in 2013, lashed his fellow executives in radio interviews and hinted that the school planned to continue to keep the pressure on ISSA.

Calabar has since returned the Mortimer Geddes Trophy, symbol of schoolboy athletics supremacy, to ISSA, 12 days ahead of the traditional day to do so, and boycotted the media launch of ‘Champs’ held last Thursday in Kingston.

KC’s principal Myrie said that the entire issue has had a negative effect on Rodgers.

"He is unhappy … he feels down, especially when he goes on Facebook and sees everything that is being said about him," Myrie said.

"His uncle in the United States, who at one time expressed an interest in Ary developing his craft and running for Jamaica, is concerned.

"But on the bright side, he continues to do his school work and do very well. He is a bright student and only recently he got 98 per cent in his Mathematics examination. The teachers at KC have said that they wished they had more Arys in their class to teach. He is very disciplined, very quiet and it is unfortunate that there is all this fuss about a young man who genuinely qualifies to represent Kingston College," Myrie said.





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