We fail our boys and jail them as men
We remember years ago, in 2011, actually, when then President of the College of The Bahamas Dr. Betsy Vogel-Boze revealed that only 14 percent of the school’s graduates were men. We knew there was a male performance problem in the education system, but that statistic was shocking.
When you examine the Bahamas General Certificate for Secondary Education (BGCSE) data – the school-leaving exams – you see the problem, too.
Boys and girls enter the school system in relatively similar numbers – keeping in mind that in normal human populations females just slightly outnumber males. By the BGCSEs, girls attain 20 percent more grades than boys. Many boys have dropped out by the end.
We fail our boys. Too many fall out of the system, grow up on the streets and take up the life of crime. Then, they either end up dead, addicts, or arrested, prosecuted and jailed.
A recently released University of The Bahamas study adds data describing the problem. The majority of prisoners who committed violent crimes were high school dropouts, according to the report “Our Prisoners: A Collection of Papers Arising from a 2016 Survey of Inmates at The Bahamas Department of Correctional Services Facility at Fox Hill”.
A paper inside the report, “Who Commits Murders”, used surveys from 367 male and female sentenced inmates.
Of those surveyed, 23.4 percent, about 86 inmates, admitted to being detained because of a serious crime against a person including murder, manslaughter and attempted murder.
More than 90 percent of those who were in prison for violent crimes were male.
Of the cohort who committed violent crimes who responded to questions about their education level before being imprisoned, 75.6 percent of them said they had an incomplete high school education, compared to 58 percent of those who were in prison for non-violent crimes.
Violent crime is a major problem in The Bahamas. It has been at a crisis level in recent years. For example, between 2007 and 2017 there were five murder records.
This country must confront the issue of the poor achievement rate of its boys and young men. Just jailing them once they have gone astray is no solution.
We do not claim to have all the answers to this complex problem. But we think the crisis of male failure in the school system should be a top priority for the government. No administration has considered it a crisis and responded with the necessary mix of new policy and resources to attempt to reverse disturbing trends.
When we fail our boys young, we have to spend so much more to chase and arrest and prosecute and house them in jail as men.
We need to reverse our spending and investment habits. More investment in child care is needed; there should be special emphasis on finding a better pedagogical model to reach boys; male teens should not be allowed to just drop out. Find them and bring them back, by whatever reasonable means, to the school environment where they can be taught, socialized, trained and positively inspired.
We will not have peaceful communities if we continue accepting the failure of our boys and young men as inevitable. They need us to do more.