Claude Blackmoore’s resignation from the position of Sports Director of the University of Guyana coupled with a prolonged period of inactivity in the sports department has initiated calls from President of the University of Guyana Students’ Society (UGSS), Jason Benjamin for a replacement.
UG administrators have appointed Stevewright Benjamin, paving the way for the resuscitation of sports activities on campus.
UGSS President Benjamin had initially applauded the appointment of his namesake but now the UGSS head is saying that the recently appointed Sports Director is not doing enough for sports at the institution.
According to Benjamin, his namesake is not vibrant enough and should be more proactive in addressing sports matters at the UG. Benjamin pointed to the much touted plan to involve females in sports activities. He said that the plan seem to have been aborted while citing the table tennis competition that was to have gotten underway on January 19. This tournament has suffered two postponements, firstly to January 26 and now to February 2.
Wainwright Benjamin had ensured that the large field situated at the northeastern end of the campus had been cut. The recent rains have caused the grass to flourish once again.
However, Assistant Registrar of the UG, Vincent Alexander came out in support of his Sports Director. He said that enough time has not elapsed to make an informed judgment on Benjamin’s performance. Alexander said that during the last semester Benjamin had worked along with Guyana Cricket Board Developmental Officer, Colin Stuart to promote cricket on Campus. Alexander feels that Benjamin should be given a little more time to implement his programmes before he is judged.
Ever since the late West Indies batsman, Roy Fredericks first occupied this prestigious position, up until 1983, students engaged in sports activities as a part of the curriculum. The position then became vacant when the late President Forbes Burnham relocated Fredericks to the Sports Ministry to serve as the Minister of Sports.
President of the Amateur Athletic Association (AAA), Claude Blackmoore took over the mantle but demitted office in 1991. Brazilian Jorge Ramos then took over the reins of office. When Ramos’ contract expired, he opted to return to his homeland, once again leaving a void.
In 2004, Blackmoore returned for a second term but left three years later in September 2007. Even as the position remained vacant, whispers on Campus suggested an imminent replacement.
President of the University of Guyana Student Society (UGSS) Jason Benjamin, in an exclusive interview with this newspaper had acknowledged the need for a viable sports programme on Campus. He said that sports must comprise a part of the curriculum if the students are to enjoy all round benefits. Benjamin cited the lack of resources as a major bugbear and urged UG administrators to make the requisite representation on behalf of the students.
Soon after the appointment of his namesake, Benjamin had urged UG administrators to work in partnership with other universities in the region towards a more viable sports programme. He said that in 2005, the University of Guyana and the University of the West Indies had attempted to collaborate while expending all available resources to rekindle an interest in sport but soon afterwards, the initiative was abandoned.
When contacted, former sports organizer, Claude Blackmoore acknowledged a need for more vibrant approaches towards a healthy sports environment at UG. He said that despite the many challenges encountered during his tenure he was able to employ his vast experience to stretch their meager resources.
He feels that sport should comprise a part of the curriculum as was done in other tertiary institutions around the world. To strengthen his point Blackmoore highlighted the ploys of administrators at the Ohio State University, USA. He said that freshmen are required to engage in sports activities for a minimum of three hours per week, strategies employed at the St Augustine Campus, Trinidad and Tobago, through the establishment of the School of Physical Education and Culture (SPEC).
Blackmoore said that during his tenure he managed to incorporate the assistance of such sports stalwarts as Eon Wills, captain of the national volleyball team and Elton Smith, head coach of the Amateur Athletic Association, among others, into his programmes. He also made special mention of Gilford Moore, a former University of Guyana student, now a member of the Combined Colleges Cricket team at the Cave Hill Campus, Barbados.
Blackmoore said that the effective implementation of his functions were hindered by the absence of support of some lecturers who bluntly refused to comply with a decree by the Dean to suspend classes for at least one day a week to facilitate sports activities. He said that some of the errant lecturers even planned examinations for the time proposed for such activities.
Deputy registrar of the UG, Vincent Alexander dismissed Blackmoore’s statements saying that the Dean cannot issue decrees to suspend classes. He said that matters of this nature fall under the purview of the academic board. He said certain technicalities might have precluded members of this body from complying with the instruction. Alexander said that the reason some lecturers may be reluctant to suspend classes could be that they may be behind schedule with their course outlines. He admitted that the issue would have to be reviewed.
Blackmoore said that he had initiated badminton sessions in the George Washington Lecture Theatre (GWLT) starting at one o’clock on Wednesdays. He said that this initiative was inexplicably discontinued.
Benjamin supported Blackmoore’s sentiments while emphasizing a need for the installation of the necessary infrastructure. “The general atmosphere is discouraging but we hope now that a sports organizer has been installed there will be positive changes,” he concluded.
Both, Blackmoore and Benjamin admitted that the framework is in place for vibrant sports activities at the University of Guyana. They also unanimously agreed that the acquisition of funding to attend to the many shortcomings is one of the major hurdles facing administrators in the installation of sports on the curriculum. Blackmoore said, “To my mind the three most pressing requirements are the need to incorporate sports into the curriculum, adequate funding and facilities and infrastructure. Benjamin uttered similar sentiments but reiterated that, “The Student Union believes that government should play a vital role in sports matters on campus.”
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