February 2021 Volume 17

Justice for Kingston College

Reprinted from Jamaica Observer
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We demand justice, and we will fight for it! Kingston College (KC) was unjustly banned from the 2021 Schools' Challenge Quiz ( SCQ ) competition. How we found out is even more alarming and shameful. Neither the principal nor the coaches were notified of the school's exclusion from the competition. We found out after other schools received invitations and the schedule was subsequently published.

A worrying trend has been observed, as it relates to unfair decisions made by the judges and a reluctance to review these decisions. Last year, at least two schools KC and Munro College were victims of unfair and unjust decisions by the judges. Over the years, a plethora of questionable actions have been noted.

In 2016, Camperdown High School sought an injunction from the courts to halt the competition, against the background of its loss to Ardenne High School in a controversial rematch. Camperdown won the initial match and was set to progress to the quarter-finals. However, TVJ held a meeting and accepted that there was a scoring error in the match which was recorded and aired two days later. Camperdown had won, 34-32, but the officials later detected an error during the buzzer section. It was argued that Ardenne was not credited with two points which would have tied the match, 34-34. TVJ ruled that there should be a rematch, which Ardenne won, much to Camperdown's chagrin.

During last season's quarter-final match between Munro College and Ardenne High, replay clearly showed Munro pressing the buzzer before Ardenne in the team's response to the mathematics question: “An article was bought for $200 and sold for $350. What was the percentage?” Ardenne was allowed to respond, and the correct answer (75 per cent) was proffered.

Based on the replay, it was evident that Munro should have been given the opportunity to respond. Despite protesting the decision, Ardenne was awarded the match.

In June 2020, a former coach of Immaculate Conception High School's quiz team tweeted that during a match (played sometime ago), the school's opponents pressed the buzzer and Immaculate was erroneously asked to answer the question. She proceeded to reveal that the girls were “understandably confused and did not answer”. Two points were subsequently deducted and Immaculate lost the match. The former coach concluded by lamenting that, “We protested orally and wrote a letter. They ignored us.”

The trend continued into the KC vs Ardenne semi-final match last year. Ardenne had progressed to this round of the competition after the quarter-final mishap versus Munro (mentioned above). In the final section (Buzzer Challenge), Ardenne answered the music question incorrectly by giving the title to the Elton John song as “Don't Go Breaking My Hearts”. The word “Heart” was pluralised and should have been ruled as incorrect. The judges are not at liberty to exercise discretion with respect to titles. We also took issue with Ardenne's response to the Modern Cambodia question.

In the final analysis, KC should have won, 32-29. Immediately after the match, a letter was submitted, requesting the judges review the matter. Our concerns were further encompassed in a second letter dated June 17, 2020 from KC's principal to the executive producer of the competition. The correspondence was submitted on the morning of the third-place play-off between KC and Titchfield High School, asking that our appeal be submitted to the judges and that they review the tape.

The coaches and players of KC stayed outside and awaited feedback. The match was scheduled to be recorded at 2:00 pm, and the team arrived on time. Having received no response, the team stayed outside for over an hour. This decision was communicated to the Titchfield team members, who had no objection. We were eventually told that an e-mail was sent to KC's principal at 12:48 pm informing him that the judges' decision is final.

KC proceeded to participate in the third-place match, and defeated Titchfield.

A letter dated June 26, 2020 was sent by TVJ's general manager to KC's principal nine days after the recording of the match for third place. The missive conveyed TVJ's dissatisfaction with the team's refusal to enter the studio to participate in the match against Titchfield.

Notably, TVJ denied several written requests by KC to convene a meeting with a view to resolving the issue. Moreover, TVJ failed to give KC a fair and unbiased hearing, which runs counter to the principles of natural justice. The actions of the media house must be vehemently condemned by all fair-minded people.

The activities which culminated in KC being banned should be investigated. Can TVJ explain the rules governing suspension and expulsion from the competition? What is the process involved in arriving at these decisions? If there are defined processes, were these processes followed? Can decisions be made via unilateral action? Shouldn't a disciplinary hearing be convened? A sound governance organ must be instituted to ensure fairness, transparency, and accountability.

Having regard to the foregoing, I am humbly recommending that the competition organisers establish an independent panel of judges to review all matters which are considered contentious and unjust. TVJ cannot be both judge and jury. It is further recommended that this panel be comprised of the children's advocate, a retired judge, and a youth representative. The aim is to ensure transparency and fairness, and to protect the integrity of the competition. All participating schools should demand that this be done. If not, they will remain exposed to these unfair decisions.

KC has, by far, the best record in the SCQ competition, appearing in 20 finals and winning 11 titles since the competition started in 1969. We are proud of these achievements and our role in raising the profile of the competition.

My heart goes out to the coaches and members of the team who were preparing intensely up to December 18, 2020 for the start of this year's competition. They are devastated!

This experience will make us even stronger, and like an eagle, we will rise. We will never yield!

Wayne O Robertson, BA, LLB, MSc is president of Fortis Pavilion, a not-for-profit organisation registered with the Companies Office of Jamaica. It is comprised of philanthropic KC past students who volunteer their services and mobilise resources to facilitate the development and growth of their beloved alma mater. The organisation's flagship initiative is the mentorship programme. The Fortis Pavilion is a proud sponsor of the school's quiz programme.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Kingston College.

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