Ricardo Brown, ninth-grade student at Holy Trinity High School, sought guidance for his football career from Marvin Hall, founder of Halls of Learning.
‘SUPPORTING A nation of champions’ is the theme that guided the recently concluded Boys in Education Week presented by the British Council. The week of activities kicked off on Monday, April 30, and ran through to Thursday, May 3. Among the scheduled activities, the week featured an empowering educator’s day, parents’ seminar, a mentoring workshop, and a career day.
Students from 20 schools across the island, at different levels of their education, turned up in their numbers to take advantage of all the week had to offer. The event, proudly supported by the Jamaica Teaching Council (JTC), is in its second staging. Olayinka Jacobs-Bonnick, country director at the council, says it was the success of last year that inspired this year’s events. “Last year was somewhat of a pilot, but what was unique about it was that we put the young was unique about it was that we put the young people at the centre of it and ask them to tell us what they wanted,” she said.
Need for role models
Among the strong points coming out of last year’s discussions, Jacobs- Bonnick highlights a need for role models as most urgent. She said, “It’s one thing to hear a single mother say I need a role model for my son, and for a teacher to say we need more role models in our communities. But, it’s another thing when young boys in grades five to nine say to you, ‘Yes, Miss, my dad is a gangster and I don’t want to be a gangster’. That one snippet of information summarised the week, last year.” With the recommendations from this event, the council is looking to materialise a three years’ Boys Mentoring Programme to be launched in September in partnership with the JTC.
“We don’t just want a week of events,” Jacobs-Bonnick said. “We need something that’s rooted and grounded in the issues that they have identified and raised, and we need to find a way to package all those issues and create aprogramme that addresses them in a holistic way.”
HOW WE RAISE OUR BOYS
Timar Jackson is one of the mentors who shared his story with the full room of inquisitive young men at the mentoring seminar held on May 2 at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel. Jackson encountered many adversities in his journey to success, a story he proudly shares today. He told Youthlink, “A big part of the problem we’re having has to do with how our males are raised. Dealing with the ills we have in society starts with dealing with the issue of how we socialise our males. We have to get them in the mindset to constantly evaluate the different narratives of masculinity.” A graduate of Norman Gardens Primary and Junior High, Jackson attributes a late start to him being placed at the non-traditional Vauxhall High in Kingston. Determined to bloom wherever planted, he matriculated into sixth form at Ardenne High before winning the Jamaica Scholarship to attend the University of the West Indies, where he studied actuarial science. He pursued later studies in the United Kingdom as the 2014 Rhodes Scholar. According to Jackson, “Many of our households are headed by single-parent mothers and the boys tend to not have that example in the home to follow. They need a criteria as to what route to take.”
Including Timar, Mentorship Day saw 20 C-Suite executives dedicating half of their day to speak to the groups of boys. Project Manager Nadine Newso describes getting “strong response from the males in society”. About the future, she told Youthlink, “At the British Council, we will be creating a database of males in the society who have achieved success and say to them, come on board with us, offer yourself to mentor a boy.” She highlighted, “The council has its own child-protection policy in place that we would encourage every mentor to be trained in before we match them with a school or a boy. This is to encourage them to follow on, keep track of the boys, ensure they stay in school and guide them towards key goals.”