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Male Martinalizaton?

Jamaica may now well be at the, ‘tipping point’ where efforts to redress male
marginalization is concerned. Here, tipping point, according to Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
is “The level of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point,” and this can be extended
to the level at which the momentum for change becomes unstoppable. Two recent
events have been adding fuel to the fire; A men’s conference held September 27, at the
Emmanuel Apostolic Church and the decision of the International University of the
Caribbean to grant eight scholarships for males to attend that institution. This is a
culmination of much talk and some action in Jamaica in recent years.

On Tuesday, March 4, 2006 members of the House of Representatives were united in

their call for compulsory registration of fathers on birth certificates. Member of
Parliament for Central Kingston, Ronald Thwaites cited statistics that only 55 percent of
Jamaican has their fathers name on their birth certificates.
Statistics from the Constabulary Communication Network, CCN show that while there
are acts of violence against women and children, the overwhelming majority of reported
cases of violence are committed by men against men.

The declining role of men in the Jamaican society has been a cause of concern for
individuals and entities tediously searching for answers. On February 17, 2008, a
men’s ecumenical conference was held at the Jamaica Conference Centre. The
mission of the conference was; to motivate men of Jamaica to commit themselves to the
service of Christ, through worship and prayer, and to Christian action manifested in
improved leadership in the Church, and in the obedience to God. This was expanded to
include men in the secular world. The main planks were; a demonstrable more loving
responsible and caring role in the home, persistent commitment to moral and ethical
practices at the workplace; to be mentors to the youth and to demonstrate love and
compassion to others in the wider society.

A key determinant of this marginalization is the low percentage of males attending

tertiary institutions in Jamaica. The root causes of the problem are varied, complex,
and culturally determined. Males are expected to begin earning a livelihood at a
younger age than do females. Many tertiary institutions do not include on their
curriculum, courses that males gravitate toward and the teaching methodology as
developed in the educational system is not geared to males. Those are the points being
repeated by local sociologists and commentators in the press, the electronic media,
town meetings and conferences.
The effects are that men have been shying away from leadership positions as a result of
not being qualified. They have shown a low interest in leadership at the social, religious
or political levels.
The evidence is clear when note is taken of the males to females delegates who voted
in the recently held People’s National Party leadership race. Furthermore, the earning
power of many men has been reducing as the education gap between the genders

The consequences of the problem are manifested in male female social relations and
the question of compatibility influenced by the higher educational attainment of the
females. The males begin to feel insecure about losing their “rightful place” as head of
the family. The natural progression is conflict in the form of domestic violence which is
a high percentage of Jamaica’s crime statistics including murder, according to figures
released by the Constabulary Communications Network, CCN. This in turn affects the
country’s economic performance thus exacerbating a vicious cycle.

The questions now being asked is, how did we get to this point? This after a somewhat
even start. The ratio of males to females in the Jamaican population, is approximately
fifty- fifty. In the primary and basic schools the ratio of males to females almost mirrors
that of the general population. Researcher Hyacinth Evans points to a higher level of
absenteeism among boys as one explanation of the gender difference in academic
achievement. (Gender difference in Jamaica’s Education, P17). The boys are
socialized differently from girls. At home they are encouraged to be king of the wild
outdoors playing games and organized sports.

A growing trend has emerged in the co-educational high schools where girls also
outnumber boys. This trend continues at the teachers’ colleges and universities.
At the University of the West Indies, the data show that 82 percent of the registered
students are females. Northern Caribbean University shows an imbalance in favor of
girls but their distribution is much more equitable that what exists at U.W.I. The
principal of Mico University College has also been lamenting the situation and has been
putting strategies in place to redress the problem of male marginalization in the
educational sector. The University of Technology, UTECH, has no such problem as the
director of corporate communications, Hector Wheeler has reported a close to fifty 50
ratio. UTECH is known for its cutting edge technical courses which have been proven
to be more male friendly.

There are some wider developmental issues which impact directly or indirectly on males
in the educational sector. Studies have been done on factors affecting learning such as
cerebral palsy, down syndrome, autism and dyslexia but more research is needed on
how these affect the Jamaican male.
It is against this background that I call for a system-wide collaborative intervention
designed to arrest structural violence, a term which describes a form of violence which
corresponds with the systematic ways in which a given social structure or social
institution kills people slowly by preventing them from meeting their basic needs.
Medical Anthropologist, Paul Farmer in this book, ‘Pathologies Of Power,’ added even
more fuel to the fire by stating that the sickness of those marginalized groups are often
a result of structural violence which cannot be blamed on culture or the will of the
individual. He sees it as historically given and often economically driven processes and
forces which conspire to constrain individual agency.

This school of thought sees mortality rate and life expectancy being negatives for those
who are socially dominated, politically oppressed or economically exploited.
Structural violence and direct violence are closely linked. Structural violence is seen as
a catalyst for all other forms of violence.
In order to resolve this problem we must revolutionize the prevailing teaching
methodologies from the failed attempt at gender neutrality to gender specific to aid the
Jamaican male.
This can be supported by a greater understanding of the learning theory as developed
by psychologist, Howard Gardner, called multiple intelligences. Gardner is suggesting
that individuals have propensity for learning and thus each person has a unique
cognitive profile.
Gardner originally identified seven core intelligences; linguistic, logical-mathematical,
spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal and intrapersonal.
Our target population, vulnerable males have varying levels of intelligences but the
structure of the education system favours those with linguistic and logical-
mathematical skills which are the basis of measurement of intelligence quotient or IQ.
The other intelligences which are important ingredients for success are often ignored.
The performance of our men, setting three world records at the 2008 Beijing Olympics
after many years of below par performances when compared to the women gives a ray
of hope. We need to re-examined those skill that make our sportsmen great in
athletics and other sports and why the cultural industries produced internationally
acclaimed musicians, singers and technicians and creative entrepreneurs, making
Jamaica into a “cultural super-state”
There is a constituent of persons at the bottom of the pyramid that need tertiary training
to enhance their occupational mobility but they lack some of the necessary resources.
It is against this background that I call for a collaborative approach involving all
stakeholders; the media, policy makers, corporate Jamaica, and the wider public to
support the thrust for increasing the offerings and opportunity at tertiary institutions to
attract and retain a higher percentage of males. We need to play our part in making
Jamaica a place to live, work, do business and raise a family.

Conroy Julian, M.A., (Can.) B.A., Dip.Mass Comm. ( U.W.I.)

Tele: 876 363 2104.