Recently appointed Minister of the Public Service, Consumer Affairs and Sports Frederick Stephenson’s request, that school sports be placed under his ministry, adds a deeper debate to the governance of sports here in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Stevenson has made it clear that he prefers that school sports be under his wings, rather than the Ministry of Education.
This matter of school sports, specifically, which ministry is best suited to be the lead administrators, has for almost two decades been a major sticking point.
Such has been the protracted sorry story, that at times things got to a head, degenerating to some verbal spats among some of the lead players.
Additionally, then, the Division of Physical Education and Sports had withdrawn its services from activities under the aegis of Ministry of Education.
In that episode just over 13 years ago, officials of the Ministry of Education at the time in retaliation issued directives barring officials from the Division of Physical Education and Sports from conducting coaching sessions in the schools.
These incidents of drama, which all got some public currency, have left an indelible stain on the sporting landscape, causing a serious disfigure on sports’ image.
But Stephenson’s plea will suffer from the events of the past, which unfortunately should not be the case, as what occurred hinged on personality and policy.
Fast-forwarding to 2021, the necessary sports policies and structures, which would have made the transition easier, are still not in place.
Set aside the personality traits, there are some fundamentals that must either be nailed down or installed.
As it has been for many years, the Ministry of Education gave the directives and the personnel within the Division of Physical Education and Sports, which possess the technical expertise, do most of the execution of school sporting competitions.
Within recent years though, the respective national sporting associations had a presence and say in the competitions which fall under their ambit.
That type of setup would have been the causes of the cross threads and fractures, which have resulted in sub-standard execution of many of the competitions.
So, if Minister Stephenson wants his way, he has to set the other policy framework in motion. Given that his ministry takes full charge of school sports, (Track and Field excluded), there must be some policy changes.
It will therefore be an administrative anomaly to have the permanent secretary within Stephenson’s ministry sending directives to the Ministry of Education.
Similarly, within the Ministry of the Public Service, Consumer Affairs and Sports, there is a coordinator/ director of Physical Education and Sports. But within the setup, the person in that position does not set the policies and programmes for Physical Education in schools, that task is in the hands of the Ministry of Education.
So, it may either mean a change in the position, or an addition of responsibilities.
Another of the readjustments is to have an officer/ new position created to work between the two ministries.
This column does not see why two of government functionaries are unable to get their act together, complemented by the other administrative framework, to facilitate the transition.
But, the call by the sports minister is nothing novel, as in the past the officials in the ministry responsible for sports have administered school sports with efficiency.
Back then, there were not many persons (if any), with inflated egos, but persons who knew only about commitment to their job and the betterment of sports and by extension, the youths of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
When it was all the Ministry of Sports, the wider Vincentian community was empowered and they had a hand in the execution of school sports competitions.
Therefore, we need not reinvent the wheel, as it had been done already. Yes, things have changed; we have more trained physical education personnel and there are more sporting disciplines to contend with.
But there is enough to make reference to, both from past experiences and from others in the region, which have similar setups.
Critical to any changes, alterations and the like, there must have the political will to see the process work.