SAVE OUR BOYS
Power brokers in the education sector are being encouraged to develop more residential-type schools for boys as part of the solution to rescuing young men who are suffering from a lack of positive male mentorship.
The suggestion was made by Jayson Downer, chairman of Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre and former boarding master at Jamaica College, at a men and boys forum staged by the United Nations Women Multi-Country Office Caribbean last Thursday.
“I have seen what providing a safe space where healthy masculinity is modelled to an 11-year-old who comes, just about to enter puberty, to the point of leaving in upper sixth form, or a boy who they transferred to play sport and he has to board and when you take an intentional approach what the result can be to the point where boys don’t want to go home,” Downer, who is also founder of Men of God Against Violence and Abuse, told the forum held at ROK hotel, downtown Kingston.
Downer, who shared that he now runs a small-scale residential operation for boys and also partners with two Corporate Area high schools to help provide interventions for boys with maladaptive behaviours, said the approach is proven.
“I was the boarding master at Jamaica College up to April of this year, from 2016, and I had the opportunity to practically see what many theorise and that’s why I use the term sterile environment as opposed to confinement. If we get that sterile environment, and put the right things in place, we can set up a paramilitary school; but nobody nah put dem money deh, but I have seen the transformation,” he noted.
“Let’s do a pilot…it works,” he urged further.
Commenting on the issue, Dave Henzel, board chair for CariMAN Jamaica — a regional network of individuals and organisations in the Caribbean working on engaging men and boys to promote gender equality — said the proposal was worth exploring, not just for boys, but also for men who are in need of psycho-social support.
“One of the issues I think is crucial is the issue of education; the way in which some of our educational institutions don’t seem to be as male-friendly as they could be, and there is really a need for a reworking of that,” Henzel said.
“The issue of dormitory spaces, one of the things I feel we are identifying here is the absence of spaces for men to express themselves in a way that they can be heard and understood and assisted,” he noted.
“The residential setting gives an opportunity; it is not limited to a term-long dormitory situation. If we were able to organise more weekend retreats, week-long retreats, summer-long retreats where we just have the men for two weeks, you would be surprised how that time would give space for them to assess themselves and begin to do the rethinking and retooling about what being a man really is,” Henzel said.
“That’s something I think we should look at as a possible solution, because that residential experience has an opportunity to transform within a short period of time,” he added.
Downer, speaking further on the issue, in referring to the work of his organisation with men including some who have served time, said, “When you give a listening ear and a man let out what in him belly and begin to talk, you would be surprised how in the same breath that man will tell you how what he did was wrong. Men come from the prison and one of the reasons they find us is because they feel they can relate to us as men. Your approach is key.”