The talents of many sportsmen and sportswomen in south Trinidad were honed on the Vos Government Primary School playground, in Gasparillo.
The long list includes Olympians Ato Stephens and Nicconnor Alexander, Trinidad and Tobago’s 2013 volleyballer of the year Sinead Jack, former national cricketer David Mohammed, and T&T women’s under-20 footballer Akila Sparks.
But Gunness Persad, a former principal of the school, fears that the list will not get any longer. He told the Express that the Ministry of Education is planning to build an Early Childhood Education Centre on the Vos playground.
“Why the playground?” Persad asked. “There is plenty wasteland in Gasparillo not in use. The irony is that the Ministry has introduced Physical Education in the SEA programme, and now they’re taking away the playground from the children. They’ll have nowhere to play.
“Early in 2010,” he continued, “I was in a meeting with Ministry of Education officials, deceased councillor Fariz Ali, teachers, villagers, the principal, past principals, and we all agreed that no school should be built on the ground.”
Persad worked at the school for 34 years, first as a sports teacher and then as principal for five years.
“Years ago, a child was knocked down and killed in Gasparillo. The road is very busy, so only a few children walk to school. They are dropped off. But during lunchtime, children would walk or play on the playground.
“Vos is nationally known in football and athletics. We are always in the top eight in Trinidad in primary schools football, and both the boys and girls have won national titles.
“Up to 2010,” Persad continued, “the ground was the mecca for all primary school sports in Gasparillo. But in 2010, they started to neglect the ground, because they planned to build the Early Education school.
“The principal, Mrs Maria Missette-Permell is opposed to the plan.”
Persad is an athletics coach. He is the driving force behind Simplex Athletic Club, and is also a national team coach.
“Simplex used to train on the Vos playground, and I also trained Vos children and other children from Gasparillo.”