November 2011 Volume 8

A Fortis student in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

Basil Waite
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The first duty of a government is to give education to the people-Simon Bolivar

KCOB George Stone is one of the first recipients of an education scholarship to study in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Now in the final year of a four year degree programme, Stone is pursuing a double major in sports medicine and massage therapy at the international physical education institute of Universidad Deportiva del Sur (Southern Sports University), situated in the cattle rearing agricultural state of Cojedes, some four hours from the capital, Caracas.

George Stone recalled that his historic mission to the socialist republic started in 2007. He was working as a data-entry clerk and first encouraged by Jamaica Administrative Athletics Association (JAAA)Marie Tavares to apply for one of ten scholarships offered to the government of Jamaica by Venezuela’s Ministry of Education under its Fundayacucha programme. At that time, the education programme including PetroCaribe, marked two of a wide ranging economic, social and technical cooperation agreement between some CARICOM countries and Venezuela and signaled an expression of international solidarity of the Bolivarian Revolution.

Having completed his application, Stone also recalled the undue long delay experienced before he was interviewed and provisionally accepted. All ten recipients underwent language training in Spanish. Just as they all gave up, a call was received in Autumn 2008 informing that tickets were ready for them to fly to Venezuela the next day. Only two responded and George and a Clarendon College old boy boarded the flight. They landed in Panama and were asked to overnight as the onward flight to Caracas was overbooked. Undaunted, George persisted and was squeezed onto the next flight. He therefore had the distinction of being the first Jamaican student to arrive in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Stone started out at what was originally named Universidad Ibero Americana. Eschewing the label Americana, it was soon renamed a more politically correct Universidad Deportiva Del Sur in keeping with the anti-colonialist outlook and transformation of the President Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias led Fifth Republic Movement to the United Socialist Party of Venezuela(PSUV).

For George Stone, the University is one of the socialist expressions of international solidarity of the PSUV. The sports institute has a population of 1,200 students drawn from Latin America, Africa, Arab and Caribbean countries such as Haiti, Martinique, Jamaica, St Vincent, Barbados, Dominica and Grenada. The curriculum ranges from physical education and health sciences, management and technology of sports.

He was quick to settle down to campus life, sharing the popular Jamaica culture of music and sports with the diverse international community of students. Part of the curriculum included political education in the Bolivarian Revolution, an ideology which seeks to build a mass movement to implement Bolivarianism-- democracy, economic independence, equitable distribution of revenue, internationalism and an end to political corruption in Venezuela. Most of the students looked forward to attending rallies donned in their redshirts to listen to Chavez and political leaders who often venerated the early 19th century Latin American revolutionary and inspirational leader Simon Bolivar in parades, speeches, ceremonies, competitions, inaugurations, commemorations, official publications, and other formal events. Chavez continues to be very popular and his programmes of free education, health, housing and affordable mass transportation have benefitted the working class and poor people of Venezuela. In fact, the petrol price in Venezuela is considered the cheapest in the world - a litre of petrol is cheaper than a litre of water. It is the wide held view that, given the achievements of the socialist revolution, saving health issues, the prospect for Chavez’s reelection in the October 2012 presidential election is therefore greatly enhanced.

George Stone entered the hallowed portals of KC in Michaelmas 1995, having passed the then Common Entrance examination which he sat at Halfway Tree Primary. He represented KC in hockey and rugby and recalled outstanding contemporaries such as Marlon Samuels at cricket. In 2000, he attended EXED and soon thereafter was recruited to voluntary work as a track and field official with the JAAA by the school’s then director of sports, Garth Gayle.

After the completing his undergraduate course, George is tinkering with the idea of pursuing post graduate studies in sports medicine.

Vaya con Dios.

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