WHILE supporting the call for a more focused national initiative, that aims to develop young people’s academic ability and sporting talent, Minister of Education, Reginald Farley has also noted that there is a real need to identify opportunities for athletic scholarships across all the disciplines for the countries young athletes.

Closing the debate in the Lower House on Tuesday to the Arts and Sports Promotion Fund Bill, the minister added that by providing this information about the athletic scholarships, The government is providing another avenue outside of the personal contact of individual coaches, for athletes to get international exposure.

Too often, he concluded; talented track and field athletes have not been able to take advantage of scholarships in the USA because while they have the athletic ability they did not possess the required academic qualifications.

He said that until the National School for Excellence in Arts and Sports is functioning we need to identify at the level of secondary schools, those young people who clearly have exceptional talent and develop individual education plans for assist them. This, he said would ensure that they not only excel in sports and arts but have the academic qualifications necessary to succeed in life.

He also noted that quite often these athletes have had great difficulties in finding jobs in the already competitive market. He added that while Government has sought to put national representatives in positions within Government agencies and statutory boards, the reality is that they can not absorb them all. Therefore, he contended that there needs to be “conscious commitment” from the private sector to employ some of these persons within their organizations.

Likewise, the minister stated that while employing these young people both the private and public sector have to be willing to give them time off from work when they are called upon to represent their countries, without the fear of losing their jobs.

“We are strengthening the sporting base of our country by using the intervention in sports as a point of contact between the youth commissioners and the coaches and others as agents of the Government to make and maintain contact with those young people,” he explained.

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