Career & Education

Wanted: male role models

BY KIMONE THOMPSON
Associate editor — features
thompsonk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, April 01, 2018

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Corporate executive Xesus Johnston, in response to what he sees as a gap in the socialisation of males, wants more men of his ilk and others to take active roles in the development of young men.

Johnston, who is general manager of Transaction E-Pins Limited, a subsidiary of Facey Commodity's Telecommunications Division, argues that much of the negative attitudes and outlook boys have is the fruit of what they are exposed to, and not so much the result of gender norms or other societal constructs. He based his argument on his experience as a mentor to boys from various preparatory and primary schools during the British Council's Boys in Education Week in May last year.

Speaking at the council's Stakeholder Appreciation Reception and Annual Report Review in Millsborough Wednesday evening, Johnston described his experience with two groups of boys. The primary school group, he explained, was interested in how much he earns, and how they can make money to purchase gadgets. On the other hand, he described the prep school group as being interested in business pursuits and career paths.

“You look at it and there's this whole world of the gender norms and societal constructs that people talk about. They were all boys in the room, all in the same age group, all Jamaican, all with the same energy. The only difference is where they come from and what they're exposed to,” said Johnston.

“Here is what I learned very simply: First of all, as a young man, wherever you start in life, whether it's the community, the family, the school, it has a massive influence on what your outlook on the world is going to be, and for a country like Jamaica where the typical outlook for a Jamaican man means starting at a deficit, we as men, Jamaican men, actually have a responsibility to present ourselves as role models,” he continued.

Johnston, who is a former vice-president of LIME and a general manager of Jamaica Beverages, suggested interventions like stopping one's car when one sees boys in a tussle, “a scene we see played out over and over in Jamaica”, and talking to them about the situation.

“The simple interventions that show them that you can be different; you can think in a different way, that's how you start. And as a Jamaican man, the first thing you should do if you understand and if you believe in building your culture and your country, is to say, 'Wherever I see young men who look like they're doing the wrong thing, I'm going to stop, call them over and have a small conversation'. It makes a huge difference,” the executive appealed.

He said further that if the British Council continues to expose groups of boys to positive role models, help them to build self-confidence, and to understand that it's not where one starts but the opportunities that they can get to, then it will help to make a difference.

“But that's just a part of it. Some of the lifting, as I've learnt, has to come from people like me [and] I'm looking forward to continuing to volunteer with the British Council,” said Johnston.

The British Council is the UK's international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. It has operations in 110 countries around the world, including Jamaica, where it works in four programme areas: social enterprise and youth engagement; basic education; arts and creative economy; and equality, diversity and inclusion. According to the annual report, Boys in Education Week was one of several projects it implemented in the 2017-2018 financial year.


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