Thursday 27 February, 2020

A view from the outside: Calabar’s woes are our woes

It is very easy to take the holier than thou route and condemn the actions of those young men from Calabar High School who behaved so despicably during the first assembly after their huge defeat to Kingston College at the recently held ISSA/Grace Boys and Girls Athletic Championships.

It was disgraceful behavior by the students who chanted incessantly and jeered the winners, describing the school as one which catered to males of a certain lifestyle.

Calabar has been under the gun recently.

First, news broke that physics teacher, Sanjaye Shaw, accused top athletes at the school of physically abusing him over mattresses and not being properly reprimanded. That issue seemed to have taken the focus away from the goal of defending the Mortimer Geddes trophy and may have affected team psyche negatively.

Then their star athlete, on whom their campaign to defend the trophy was built, was not in the best of form and was not able to bring home the projected points. Now we see a number of videos surfacing on social media where the student body was behaving in an unbecoming manner in the presence of teachers and an individual who appears to be the acting principal.

That students could even think of behaving that way at school assembly is unfathomable to me. Have we failed the younger generation as a nation?

I have many good friends who attended Calabar. Most of them have become productive members of society and are decent people. The Jamaica Baptist Union institution has produced notable Jamaicans who, I am sure, are shaking their heads in shame. They must be crestfallen that students attending their alma mater were captured displaying base human behavior.

But while they have every right to feel ashamed, we must not take the stance that 'this is a Calabar thing'. It is a reflection of how our youngsters behave right across the board.

Respect for adults and common decency seems to have been thrown into the rubbish by some of the younger generation.

What can we expect when most of what is bandied about as ‘music’ these days most times sends messages of violence and disrespect for others?

It is incumbent on all of us not to condemn Calabar and put our heads in the sand in the hope that this scourge of indiscipline will eventually pass, but to man up and say enough is enough. Time for this flow of moral effluent to be stopped and the mess that we find ourselves in be cleansed post haste.

Calabar’s woes are our woes. Lest not forget that these are Jamaican youth who will spend seven years at most at the institution before being unleashed on the society.

One of the school’s most prominent Old Boys is former Prime Minister, PJ Patterson. During his tenure at the helm of government, Patterson called for a return to morals and values.

Maybe, he can take time out of his busy retirement schedule and work with the school authorities to bring a turnaround at his beloved alma mater.

One hopes that the Jamaica Baptist Union will also take corrective action at one of Jamaica’s finest institutions and seek to address the breakdown of discipline that is so glaringly evident.

It is now easier to give credibility to Shaw’s claim that teachers are treated with scant regard by the students at Calabar and it brings into sharp focus the need for the school’s administrators to show some testicular fortitude and send a clear signal that any further sullying of the school’s name will result in harsh penalties.

In the court of public opinion, the school’s administrators appear to be wimps who cower in fear of those who they are paid to groom into productive citizens.

The sight of a hapless teacher feebly attempting to get the rambunctious boys to quit the disgusting chants has giving credence to that school of thought. This was during assembly. Something is clearly not right at Calabar and by extension in Jamaica.

I humbly suggest that, maybe as a show of intolerance for such insolence and open defiance of authority, the school consider withdrawing from all sporting competitions for a year as a measure of teaching these youngsters that actions have consequences. This cannot be swept under the carpet.

Calabar should use this incident as a teachable moment. These youngsters are part of an institution that has won Champs for seven consecutive years. Some of them have never tasted the agony of defeat in all their years there and maybe it was too much of a bitter pill for them to swallow.

It can be used as a moment to teach our children how to lose gracefully, to realise that there are lessons in losing that can be used to goods effect.

You can’t win them all.

I am encouraged by a social media post by my friend of over 40 years, an esteemed citizen of Jamaica whose integrity and dignity has never been in question, Christopher Denny.

The Calabar old boy was hurt by what he saw and vowed to make efforts to take corrective action to avoid the further rot of the minds of our beloved youngsters who attend his alma mater.

Denny posted:

“I want to apologize on behalf of our school to all my friends from KC for the vile and vulgar chant therein. KC is an outstanding institution with a fitting motto. We ask for your patience and forgiveness as we deal with this matter. But I also ask that we all stop forwarding the videos.

We also apologize and to anyone who is offended and frankly stung that such a thing could happen.

Continuing to send these videos will only serve to make matters worse. I know social media is a powerful force but let us use this opportunity to show that as well-meaning adults we can use social media to correct an evil. Let us work together on preventing any further circulation. Anyone sharing these videos is not helping, they are hurting these kids.

Finally, I want to assure you, we as old boys and well-wishers will be engaging the school immediately to look into this issue to take the necessary steps and to determine the way forward to making Calabar a better school where young boys can come and become great men.”

I am encouraged by Denny’s words. I know him as an honourable human being and am confident that he can rally his fellow old boys to start the process of turning things around at Calabar.

Calabar, you can rise from the ashes like a phoenix, seize the moment.

After all, Calabar’s woes are Jamaica’s woes.

That is my view from the outside.

Karyl Walker is a multi-award-winning journalist who has worked for Loop Jamaica, the Jamaica Observer, the RJR Communications Group and Nationwide Radio among other media entities. He now resides in South Florida.


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