IN a loving flashback to the days of his youth in the Morvant district, a professor at Howard University must have stirred equally longing responses to his Express guest column this week. The moving recollections of Prof Charles Hosten’s past came from reading unrelentingly dread news about a shooting in Morvant, and reviewing presumably old photo album inserts.
“The pictures represent a time capsule of a Trinidad that has long vanished, especially in poor urban areas,” he wrote. Troubled by the present state of play, so to speak, in such areas, the professor recalled the keen interest and participation in sporting activities during his Morvant youth. Soccer and cricket tournaments were organised, keenly competed in and enjoyed by people in the area who came out to watch and to cheer their favourite teams. Table tennis and track also drew players and supporters who took part in competition and training tours outside the community.
In the recall of Prof Hosten, the Morvant of yesterday is all but glamorised. His piece harks back to the annual sports day, including a village marathon, with uniformed teams bidding for march-past trophies. What made all this possible? It was, he wrote, “a community with adults actively involved in the lives of area youth, serving as role models and mentors”.
The professor’s attention to sports as a community and personal development strategy is not new and indeed has been the primary focus of several governments’ initiatives. It features prominently in the 2015 manifesto of the ruling PNM, a document subsequently adopted as national policy. Much money has been invested, over many years and by several governments, in providing sporting facilities and programmes in communities across the country but the population will no doubt reference the infamous LifeSport as a stark illustration of the insincerity that accompanies some of those efforts.
Prof Hosten senses how far people can go with only nostalgia. Calling for “concrete steps” to improve youngsters’ lives in Morvant and similar areas, he sees one solution in utilising the skills of retired workers. He calls for retirees to be recruited to help coach in school sports, develop school choirs, and sharpen preparations for SEA exams. “Develop and implement parenting courses for parents,” he urges, also calling on area retirees to become “role models” for schools they had attended.
Prof Hosten directed his recommendations to an unnamed all and everyone. Valuable as such proposals seem, for implementation they will need targeted research and leadership “on the ground”. Lecturing chemistry in Washington DC, the professor must know the effective limits of words from the podium. Maybe he can be persuaded, during future visits back home, to engage his ideas in fruitful experiments. His preparation for those experiments will alert him to the practical challenges involved, and the number of sporting and other initiatives already attempted, including this Government’s pilot School Improvement Project in Laventille.