Over the last four decades, developing Caribbean countries have been struggling to maintain law and order within their respective territories, while simultaneously causing a reduction in the increasing levels of crime and criminality in their societies; which pose the most serious threat to their forward movement and the notion of national security.
While these countries have all approached the subject matter differently, most of them have failed in addressing the root causes of crime and criminality, so much so that their judicial systems have become ineffective and slothful in the dispensation of justice.
This is not as a result of poor management on the part of the judiciary, or the lack of adequate resources in the form of magistrates or lawyers, but can be directly attributed to a breakdown in the traditional family structures within our societies; the changing socioeconomic, domestic and regional environment; the shifting of gender roles; the emergence of new, complex gender identities; and the changing dynamics of a world now driven by newer forms of information and communication technologies.
While all of the abovementioned factors are important to any discussion on solving the proliferation of crime within our regional economies, many researchers and policy makers underestimate the role of males and boys in growth and sustenance of the Region’s crime problem. In fact, little or no effort is made to reform our boy children to ensure that they are able to contribute in more meaningful, progressive and productive ways to the societies in which they live.
The truth is, most Caribbean men and boys are being poorly socialized, and are many times not given enough attention during their early years of development at home, in school, and within the wider society, from adults who still arguably have the ability to mould them into right-thinking, right-acting and upstanding menfolk who are employable, educated, and civilised men within their communities.
At an early age, boys within developing countries are told that they must be tough, and the burden to provide for their families still falls on their shoulders, despite the shifting gender roles and the advances made in gender equality. They are socialised to hide their weaknesses and sensitivities, and to shun anything that even slightly appears feminine.
We must re-educate our boys, therefore, and change how they perceive the importance of an education, despite the economic hardships and feminisation of this tool by the societies in which they dwell.
A renowned Jamaican educator, Wayne Campbell, offers a number of solutions for saving our boys and reducing their involvement in crime, which could see them moving from not populating jails, but universities and think-tanks that arrive at solutions for male empowerment and the economic advancement of the entire family as a unit.
Campbell asserts that “there is also the need to urgently recast our current gender policy. One way of doing so is to incorporate more men in the discourse to shape our national gender policy. It’s ludicrous to think that women only, or a gender board dominated by women, can advocate the needs of our boys and men. We also need to examine the possibility of creating so-called ‘boy-friendly’ curricula, assessment and pedagogical practices. We now know that boys learn differently than girls, and therefore we should use this knowledge to refashion teaching methodologies that speak to both sexes in the classroom.”
In Guyana, there is a need to view the issue of male underperformance and underachievement with a sense of urgency and dispatch. If not, we are going to continue to witness the spread of a deviant strand of hyper- masculinity sweeping across the education system. This reconstruction of masculinity is already manifesting itself in all our schools. Our boys are wearing their school pants well below their waist, and at times exposing their undergarments. Those boys who wear the uniform correctly are teased and referred to as “old”.
Our boys have become more violent in recent years, even to the point of physically abusing female teachers. Male teachers, over the years, have endured physical attacks from our boys; however, this new attack on the female teachers by our boys should be viewed as a wake-up call for school administrators and policymakers in regard to the urgent need to rescue our boys.