Sports Opinion

A tough year for sports! – No circular received by schools yet!

The annual prize-giving of Musaeus College, Colombo was held on 20 January 2021 at college premises with its chief guest being Ajita de Zoysa, Chairman, Board of Trustees of Musaeus. Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the school had sought to hold the event this year in a novel way, as a “Drive Through Event”, while following all regulation as per the Ministry of Health guidelines. Photo by Ishan Wanniarachchi

From the Sports Watch weekly sports column by Dinith Pathi

The coronavirus pandemic started affecting Sri Lanka in mid March. When the Government declared the first few holidays and the first few days of the curfew, only a few, including those relevant Government officials could have foreseen the massive scale of disruption that it would have brought to everyday life in the country.

Since this is a worldwide phenomenon and not a Sri Lanka-only one, there was no option but to take the necessary action and the precautions that the Government took at that stage of the pandemic.

School sports, a great casualty

One of the areas that has been most disrupted and affected has been the field of education. This is true of most countries in the world where in some countries’ schools have already been closed up to March 2021. Sri Lanka has been no different. But, there is another aspect of this same area which needs urgent but cautious attention. And that is the area of school sports.

School sports in Sri Lanka is a very important aspect of our education. The “body politic” of education is not complete without the proper attention to the area of school sports.

Now they being opened

Of course, with the lockdown and curfew as well as the various outbreaks and clusters of the virus which spreads from time to time in various parts of the country, the 2020 school sports year was a total washout. This was a completely undesirable but nevertheless a totally understandable result of the pandemic. But then the question arises as to how this particular area of education can be rehabilitated at least for the year 2021.

Almost all of the schools, apart from the ones in the Western Province, are open now. And even in the Western Province, there are moves underway to make sure that they are opened as soon as it is humanly possible to do so. With this aspect in mind, it is also important to understand the role that sports plays in the formation of child education.

No circular received by schools yet!

There is an English saying, “All work and no play makes jack a dull boy”. In other words, just as education is important for any child to get ahead in life, it is equally certain that sports are also very important to make sure that the child is a rounded person. Therefore, when the schools start under strict health and Government guidelines by the relevant authorities, it is equally important that there should be a mechanism to get the sports activities of the schools started as well.

This is where at the moment, there seems to be a lack of coordination between the relevant authorities and the school administrations. As it is at the moment in Sri Lanka, there have been certain circulars which have been released where allegedly the Ministry of Education has granted permission under limited circumstances for certain sports activities to be started in schools.

But when speaking to most school authorities, their position is that no such circular has reached them yet. And as such, they are reluctant to start any school sports activity without express permission from the relevant education and health authorities.

National selections in dilemma

This is a very unsatisfactory position. That is not only from the point of view of sports activities and practices but also from that of the national selections of the various sports. Since most of the international events are going to go ahead this year within the various “bubbles” that have been designed by international bodies for sports competitions, the selections need to be done for Sri Lanka teams for them to get ready in time.

And if sports activities do not resume, these selections will need to be done using outdated statistics and results, which will be from before March 2020. Such situation would be a travesty and a total misrepresentation of the talent available in the country for that sport.

The Ministries should coordinate

All this is being discussed without even taking the mental health benefits that sports activities accrue to the relevant kids who are taking part in such sports. Since mental health is also of paramount importance, that is an area that should not be neglected or swept under the carpet in this particular discussion.

With all of the above in mind, it is extremely important that the relevant authorities get their act together and act concurrently to give out one message. The Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Sports, in consultation with the Ministry of Health, need to coordinate their actions and response to give necessary guidance in this situation for sports activities. Granted, all these institutions are also faced with a very difficult and an unprecedented situation and their responsibilities must be weighing heavily on their shoulders.

But their guidance and action is vital in this situation so that the necessary decisions can be taken with the safety of the kids at the forefront of all those decisions.