The 47th season of TVJ Schools Challenge Quiz (SCQ) kicked off in January, 2016 with 64 schools entering the competition. Kingston College (KC) was the number one seeded team and was called to the crease to take first strike.
The 2016 team consisted of: Chevaul French (Captain) Kareem Clarke, Shemar Henry, and Zackarie Campbell along with the coaches Jeffrey Foreman and Kenyatta Powell
The writer sought audience with one of the Coaches, Kenyatta Powell, to get a feel of the mood going into the 2016 competition . And for the record, KC has won the competition more times than any other school and was entering the competition with eleven (11) wins. Additionally, the school has been to the quarter, semi and finals over 20 times.
According to Kenyatta, the selection of the final team would normally be done in July but this year this was not done until in October due to some uncontrollable variables. However, with the commitment of all stakeholders, adjustments were made to the programme and they made up for the lost time. The boys were confident but humble and always guided by the team’s principles – respect for opponents, fear no team, and never feel you are going to lose a match.
The team won all matches played up to the third round. In round one the team easily dismissed Westwood winning 48 to 24. In the second round, KC played St. Michael’s Academy – a school that has been showing some promise – but the scores did not lend any credence to expectations many outside of KC harboured. Kingston College outplayed St. Michaels 44:18. Our sister school, The Queens School, was the opponent in Round 3 and KC, rightly so, went into the game to win not to nurture a family relationship. Queens was totally outclassed and the game ended 38:07 in favour of KC. With this win, KC advanced to the quarter finals.
At the quarter finals KC came up against Campion. The team had watched Campion’s matches and knew it would not have been a walk-over. Yes, Campion was going to be a formidable opponent. Despite the distracting voice of the naysayers, the team went into the match confidently.
Fast forward to the final round – the buzzer section. The scores, going into this four-minute round, read 35:27 in favour of Campion – eight clear points ahead of KC. This, by any stretch of the imagination, was a very challenging situation for KC and many who loved and supported the team started losing hope. The challenge got even more intense early in the section when the team answered two questions incorrectly – scores were now 23:35 - with the team now trailing by twelve points.
With one minute and thirty seconds on the clock, the scores read 39:29 in favour of Campion. But the young Fortis must have whispered in each other’s ear – “The Brave Never Yield”. At this point in the game, the KC team reminded the world what it meant to be Fortis. With that determination to win, they rallied back in a most spectacular way and when the four minutes expired, the scores posted were 41:39 in favour of Kingston College. Many thought it should have been 43:39 based on a current affairs question that no points were allotted for.
But everyone was in shock after the end-of-game-break, the displays indicated that the scores were tied at 39. This situation did not go down well and as is customary, queries were made and protests lodged. But the judges were blatantly adamant that they would not be accommodating.
The coaches were told that KC lost points as the pronunciation of its answer to the Bible Knowledge question was incorrect – the team responded Absalam instead of Absalom they claimed. Requests were made by our coaches that both schools along with the judges, review the tape but this was also flatly refused. For those of us who subsequently listened to the tape, the decision made by the judges was a blatant injustice to the team – it was as clear as day that the pronunciation was correct.
The judges decided that, with the scores tied at 39, the game would move into sudden-death. Campion was announced the victors when they buzzed in and responded correctly to a question asked. The scores were now 41:39 in favour of Campion and that team was promoted to the semifinal round.
The school, via Principal Myrie, wrote to Television Jamaica (TVJ) requesting a meeting and a review of the match. The request for the review of the match was denied by TVJ and to date no meeting was established, despite even a second request from the Principal.
This incident, along with one involving another school, has really had many persons opining that TVJ, by its action, has brought this august competition into disrepute.
So blatant was the injustice meted out to the team, that the former Jamaican Ambassador to the United States and Professor of International Law at the University of the West Indies, Stephen Vasciannie wrote to TVJ's General Manager, Claire Grant and copied the Board Chairman appealing for fairness. He warned that the integrity of the competition, which had a rich history, was at risk. Professor Vasciannie, a former KCOBA President, noted that fairness should result in the match be awarded to Kingston College.
Despite the appeal for good sense to prevail, TVJ held firm to its position, without any further discussions, and KC was unfairly denied the opportunity to progress into the semifinal round.
In an article in The Observer of April 4, titled “SCQ 2016: Unanswered Questions” Verona Antoine-Smith proffered “the producers of the once prestigious competition now need to review the rules governing queries and the entire decision-making process. This is necessary if its core values and long-standing reputation is to be restored” She went a little further “the Issues raised by KC and, thereafter, Camperdown High should never be viewed as merely a one-school issue with Television Jamaica, but more so as a necessary concern to correct an overarching problem that threatened to destroy the integrity of the quiz, and therefore could affect any school in the competition”
In a Facebook post, Fortis Ian Wilkinson QC also noted: “I have been involved with Schools' Challenge Quiz ("SCQ") as a coach since 1984 (yes 32 unbroken years!) and it is painful to see that this legendary competition for which we hold such great affection and respect has been brought into disrepute by TVJ, based on the arrogance and impunity with which various issues are approached year in year out”.
The final match was played on March 31 - Titchfield against Campion. Titchfield came out the winner of SCQ 2016, but again after much in-studio drama. The scores, in the end, read 41:39 in favour of Titchfield.
In another post on his Facebook page after the final match was played for the season, Ian Wilkinson, QC wrote “I was struck by a curious "coincidence" - Titchfield won by the same score (41-39) by which Kingston College should (would!?) have won in the controversial Quarter-final match against Campion on March 14.
The "gods" do have fun with us as Shakespeare recognized in KING LEAR - As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport."
While two of the team members will be moving on to college/university, KC should retain the other two for next year.
My final question to Kenyatta – “I hear the calls for KC to boycott Quiz for even one year, what is the mood of the stakeholders?” His response was succinct “We are committed more than ever to get back in the winner’s circle.” KC’s strength is indeed in its determination to succeed.
School Challenge Quiz 2016 is now a tarnished history, but let us turn our eyes towards 2017 with optimism because it is the year when Kingston College will claim its 12th title.