Here lie the remains of literacy
The writing has been on the wall for quite a while. The interventions have been varied and many; however, the education system continues to fail our boys.
Sadly, the society will pay dearly. The truth is the society is already paying dearly for this consensual failure. Literacy is much more than the calling of words. The failure to which reference is made stems from a background that many of us have detached ourselves from reading. The proliferation of social media has also added nails in the coffin of literacy.
Unfortunately, too many of our students continue to struggle with the basics, such as filling out an elementary job application form or even constructing a simple sentence. The dearth of literacy in the wider society is problematic and has greatly contributed to many of the social ills within the society. Notwithstanding this, we cannot solely place all the blame on the students.
It is rather unfortunate that the positive behaviour to which our students should aspire is not readily available in the society. For example, our students do not have enough examples of adults reading in order to model such behaviour and this is symptomatic across the various levels of the education system.
Our boys continue to lag behind our girls in literacy. Regrettably, boys who display an aptitude for scholastic achievement are oftentimes ridiculed and their sexuality challenged. The society has unwittingly embraced and reinforced a culture which dictates to boys that reading is anti-masculine. This apathy towards reading must be addressed with urgency as the society continues to send conflicting messages, along gender lines, about how success is defined.
Sadly, many of our schools are not considered as safe spaces by international standards. Specifically, the society needs to create safe spaces for boys in order to engage them more meaningfully. The social currency which is used to determine success needs to be revalued. The society needs to critically revisit the education system and “de-feminise” the system as it serves as a deterrent to the holistic development of our males.
The issue of male underperformance and underachievement needs urgent attention, if not addressed urgently the society is likely to witness the continuation of the spread of a deviant strand of hyper masculinity. There needs to be more creative literacy interventions, especially targeting our boys. Why not establish a National Men’s Day for Reading. As the name indicates, male educators would be in charge of all classes on that day. In those educational institutions with very few male educators, the parent-teachers associations would partner with the schools and fathers, and male figures would be in charge with the support of all stakeholders.
Let us also explore how as a society we can partner with other stakeholders by making places such as barbershops more literacy friendly in order to inspire and motivate boys to read more. Corporate Jamaica and Jamaicans living in the diaspora could be asked to join such an effort through donation of books and magazines to these important institutions that provide grooming services for our males.
The time to think outside the box is now. We need to rescue our boys.