STAKEHOLDERS of the national primary schools’ track and field championships, cricket and football leagues remain optimistic that ongoing discussions between longstanding sponsors Atlantic, and the Ministry of Education, will allow these competitions to get under way in 2023.
Recently, Atlantic’s annual primary schools’ football league was stopped before the national quarter-finals kicked off, and both the cricket and track and field events have been pushed back pending the outcome of these discussions.
Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly confirmed on Wednesday that these events are not traditionally funded by her ministry.
Newsday also spoke to National Primary Schools Track and Field president Curtis Matthews, who opted to reserve his comment at this time.
“I am unable to give a comment at this time as the matter has been referred to the division that governs sporting events at the education ministry,” Matthews said.
When asked which division in particular, Matthews responded via WhatsApp saying, “Curriculum.”
Initially, the track and field champs was scheduled to run off at Manny Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella, on Wednesday.
Billson Hainsley, Atlantic’s media communications officer, shared similar remarks and said the continuation of the football league and possible start to the track and field champs and cricket league, remains dependent on what comes out of their discussions with the ministry.
He said, “We are still in discussion. We would have been speaking with the Ministry of Education since 2022 so until those discussions are concluded, we cannot say anything, and neither can they.”
National Primary Schools’ Football League president Kurt Cruickshank also had a reserved response to questions on the league’s possible resumption.
“The league was not completed. For the league competition, we had it up to the district level. Each district would have completed their competition. What did not take place was the national quarter-finals and so on. This is where the winning teams from each district meet each other.”
Cruickshank said he could not comment on why the league was stopped but is holding to hope, that the competition, for the youngsters in particular, can run its full course.
Atlantic has been the premier sponsor of these primary school meets for more than two decades and their rich history and commitment to each competition through the years is unmatched.
National Primary Schools Cricket League president Kenneth Samuel told Newsday that they’ve already submitted their proposals (to Atlantic) and are awaiting their response in terms of what they would be offering.
In the meantime, Samuel said his committee has started an Under-12 development competition among the districts to keep the children active and help nurture them back into an elevated level of physical competition after over two years downtime owing to the pandemic.
“This is part of our development programme and we felt that it is important this competition be played. This helps to develop the young cricketers for them to go off into the hard ball cricket.
“So far some districts would have completed their competition while others are in the process of doing so. St George East district is having group games this Thursday and Friday so hopefully by next week, the zonal finals would take place to get a district winner.
“We are still hoping for a positive response from Atlantic so these district winners can go into a national playoff,” he said.
Samuel added that because of covid19, a lot of the pre-pandemic primary school student-athletes would have already graduated by now.
This meant that students now in standard four and five, would not have been trained in playing the hard ball cricket. As a result, several schools did not plan on participating this year.
He continued, “A lot of the schools which would normally take part in the hard ball are unable to do so. If time permits us and if we receive the funding we may consider the district teams to play against each other, based on what’s available at that time.”
Recently, Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe made a clarion call to national sporting organisations and primary and secondary schools to bolster their respective sporting programmes to boost involvement.
She also said her ministry is embarking on a talent search in rural areas to widen the pool of athletes.
In an effort to increase all-round participation, Cudjoe wants to “establish a club and get some buy-in from the ones that already exist to do training in rural areas, so that they can have access to a sporting club or some sort of sporting programme.”
Last month, Cudjoe and Gadsby-Dolly, along with other local sport officials, travelled to Jamaica to meet with Jamaica sport officials to learn about their sport programmes, which they plan to implement here in TT.