With government schools set to open on Monday in New Providence, the Bahamas Chess Federation (BCF) in conjunction with the Ministry of Education will launch a pilot program geared towards getting chess in schools this new school year.
Spearheading this initiative is Nathaniel Higgs, the developmental chess trainer of the BCF.
The first two pilot schools are S.C. McPherson Junior High School and C.V. Bethel Senior High School. The data from these two schools will hopefully attract more schools and more trainers – the biggest issue they are having.
“We are trying to get the kids – the primary, junior and high school levels before they come out of school to teach them to think critically, analytically, strategically and tactically. Those skills can be used in all aspects of your life. If you can teach these kids that while they are at their genius stage it would be awesome. From age one to 13 is when they are at their genius stage. It is when they hit puberty is when we start having problems with them but if we can teach them to think with those skills, it will be easier for them to learn maths, English and sciences,” Higgs said.
Evon Wisdom, senior education officer, Interscholastic Sport, Ministry of Education, supports the initiative.
“It’s very important, we see this as a co-curricular activity, assisting with the overall development of the student. And it’s an activity for life,” Wisdom said.
He added that they plan to have school competitions like other sports such as basketball, soccer and softball.
Higgs took an advanced training course over the summer that will allow him to train international competitors and be their coach. Higgs is waiting on the results of that course. For now, he can only coach local chess beginners.
Higgs added that he personally wants to start with those children who have a 2.0 grade point average or lower.
“Personally, I want to start with the kids who made less than 2.0. The reason why I want to start with those [is] because they are the ones that fall through the cracks that people don’t waste their time with because people say they are not interested. Persons do not know their social issues and you don’t know why they are falling through the cracks. I want to use chess to change their perception of why they don’t like school or why they don’t want to be interested in their education. Through chess, I want to encourage them to think critically about their life and formulate [an] analytic, strategic and tactical plan for their future. I will use chess to do that.” Higgs said.
He wants to give the student-athletes more exposure. His endgame is to procure scholarships that will allow the student-athletes to go to Ivy League colleges if they choose to.
He is thankful for Wisdom’s effort in ensuring that they get the program underway. Higgs also thanked Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd for getting the program underway.
The BCF is hoping to get more trainers who are committed and dedicated to continuing the training – they don’t want to start and then stop. It has to be continuous to be effective.
This past summer, the BCF hosted a World Chess Federation (FIDE) Trainers Seminar. The seminar was hosted by Darcy Lima, FIDE trainer.
“We had a training course since we are trying to introduce chess into schools and we need more coaches. That was a problem we had in the past. We only have a limited amount of coaches and those persons were professionals like myself. We have to deal with work and find time but if we have a larger pool of trainers, we will have a larger pool where we can train more students and the populace about chess and we can spread chess throughout The Bahamas,” Higgs said.
Higgs was a carpenter apprentice when he first learnt to play chess back in 2000. His mentor is Warren Seymour, who had a program called the “The Learning Tree” in front of the University of The Bahamas bookstore on University Drive.
He has been pushing for this initiative since 2013 and is excited to see it get underway.