Declining literacy among boys ‘big factor’ in school unrest

There may be a direct link between declining literacy among boys and the continuation of the long-standing problem of violence in schools.

This is the view of social worker and head of the Men’s Empowerment Network Support (MENS), Fabian Sargeant, who said that based on his assessment of troubled boys, those with literacy issues lack the rationalisation for conflict resolution.

His concerns are similar to those of fellow social worker and head of Supreme Counselling, Shawn Clarke, who warned that these literacyassociated challenges are about to spill over into the wider society.

Referencing the two incidents of school violence which grabbed headlines last week, Sargeant told the Sunday Sun it was clear to him the need for gender-specific activities and training.

“We have several issues facing young men in Barbados, literacy being the one at the top of the list. We have found that a lot of young boys who are experiencing challenges with literacy are often prone to violence. When you find people with literacy issues, you often find that they are unable to rationalise, negotiate and make good behavioural decisions. I think we must re-examine how we educate our young boys,” Sargeant said.

Clarke said he too had taken note of the troubling trend, with the linkages quite glaring.

“I have been seeing a pattern over the years of a drop in literacy. It is sad that only yesterday I was saying that we are prepared in two months to unleash hundreds of young people into Barbadian society, who cannot spell the first name of their school. So a drop in literacy is certainly a major challenge, in addition to the fact that our children are not being taught conflict resolution in a holistic way,” he said.

Two incidents

Last week, a boy from Parkinson Memorial Secondary School was stabbed by another, while a student was attacked with a rock at another school.

The issue of school violence saw the Ministry of Education convening a high-level discussion with stakeholders last Thursday to come up with solutions.

Sargeant said targeted, gender-specific programmes for boys were required. He disclosed that the MENS Safe Zone initiative, now in its third year, continues to be over-subscribed by schools.

“There are not many of them and the few that they have are run by women. Case in point is the Boys Scouts. So, programmes such as Safe Zone try to fill that void, to work directly with male adolescents. This is a service that is really needed. At this point, these youngsters are acting out because they have not been taught to deal with the frustration which they carried from home.”

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