Barbados is very very good at producing fancy reports about all manner of things under the sun. Academics are just as good at sourcing those fancy reports and then creating fancier ones about the same issue, while it lingers on in implementation deficit and becomes
a perennial sore.
This reality was solidified for me when I found myself writing a letter of excuse for my son’s school a few days ago.
I had read the Barbados Growth And Development Strategy 2013-2020 about a year ago for some work I was completing. I got so excited when, under the summary section of Goals, Objectives, Targets And Strategies, sport got some attention.
The Strategy boldly claimed that “the goal and objective of Barbados’ growth and adjustment policy framework for 2013-2020 targets a return of the Barbadian economy to its historic growth rate of between 3.0 per cent by 2017 and to 4.0-4.5 per cent by 2020. To achieve this, the Government will focus on a number of priority areas over the medium term.
“These include not only boosting output in key sectors such as tourism, international business and financial services, agriculture, and industry, but also but also expanding efforts to enhance the contribution from the culture and sports industry, innovation and science, and small and medium-sized enterprises. While the focus is not totally new, the difference must be a much more concerted effort to bring about the changes that are needed and ensuring that objectives are met”.
Fast-forward to the middle of 2016. The junior golfers who have made the national junior team this year will host Caribbean juniors from as far afield as St Croix and Jamaica right here in Barbados at the beginning of July. The juniors who have been selected to represent Barbados in the 13-14 category all have handicaps of below ten (in other words, de boys bad!).
They have real potential to leave Barbados on scholarships and become high-income sports players. Most are either Barbadian, or are at least dual citizenship holders. All are doing at least seven days’ absence from their respective schools.
Why? Well, we live on a small island called Barbados. Although sport has been tagged as an industry to assist in the restoration of the economic outlook of Barbados, it is still just a good-sounding phrase in a fancy report.
At the day-to-day level, there is no operational modelling to allow the stated objective to materialize. So the youngsters playing golf in this category will end up with pretty terrible attendance records because when they are away from the classroom at golf training, their time does not count as national duty.
What is even more mind-boggling is it all falls in their post-examination period at school. They miss no tuition whatever. It is time they would spend playing dominoes with friends or hitting ball on the pasture because teachers are engaged with administrative duties.
Why, when sport is outlined as a major plank in the island’s growth and development strategy, would I have to waste time getting parent petitions and other lobbies in place to explain why these children should not be getting marked absent at school? Does everything have to crash and burn in Barbados before we seriously look at the basic things we need to do in this country?
The National Junior Golf Programme run by the Barbados Golf Association (BGA) is state-recognized. I make this assertion because the Government of Barbados sends children to join the programme every year through the National Summer Camp’s recruitment programme. The Government of Barbados then provides a scouting facility that allows children to come in contact with a golf coach who can identify talent.
This national recruitment exercise of the National Sports Council is a very worthwhile exercise. The downside, however, is that if real talent is found, it becomes the parent’s responsibility to provide further coaching and equipment, which is prohibitive in cost. If a child makes a further breakthrough and secures a place on a national junior team, there is
still no access to Government funding or even,
as I outlined, basic administrative facilitation which would encourage the parent and the child to see professional sporting as a career option.
Return to the last line of the fancy report of the Strategy and tell me where the more concerted effort is being shown. The coach who is training the national junior team has given them a schedule of play matches. Recording their absence from class is as easy as sending an email to the deputy principal of their respective schools once the children have completed their practice.
They must hand in cards which the BGA use to compute their handicaps, so there is concrete proof the children have attended practice and produced.
We are currently renting a tractor at the Sanitation Service Authority for $23,000 a month. Well, $23,000 a year from the Government of Barbados to the junior golf programme could buy nuff gloves and minor equipment, or ensure a fitness coach for the junior team for a year.
If the rest of the year’s tractor rental is given to 11 other sporting disciplines, we could have at least ten high net worth sportspeople making remittances to Barbados by the year-end of the Growth And Development Strategy.
The most frustrating thing about Barbados right now is that I know better, because I have been educated to know better. I can see clearly the mismanagement in several sectors across Barbados at the governmental level, and I can also see the fancy words and nonsense we encourage in this country. It is tiring.
As we continue to talk, Brexit has occurred and every surety we had as a state is disappearing before our eyes. It is not business as usual. It cannot be business as usual and it will never again be business as usual.
If small simple things trip us up like this, how do we eke out a space in this very and ever-increasing hostile world?
(Marsha Hinds-Layne is a full-time mummy and part-time lecturer in communications at the University of the West Indies. Email firstname.lastname@example.org)