Parliamentarians from across the Caribbean spent much of Wednesday discussing why male youths are underachieving in the region and what can be done about it.
The debate was part of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s 32nd Annual Regional Conference, which is taking place this week at the Marriott Resort, Grand Cayman.
Speaker of the Antigua House of Representatives D. Gisele Isaac Arrindell began the debate with a wide ranging presentation.
She asked whether outdated teaching and learning methods are equipped to hold the attention and to fire the imagination of modern boys.
She said young men have difficulty because they are more likely to suffer from a learning disability such as dyslexia, ADD, a hyperactivity disorder or some form of autism.
Male education problems are exacerbated, she said, by the diminished ability of the apprentice system to catch young men and women falling through the education cracks.
Sighting other studies, Mrs. Arrindell asked whether modern culture was also contributing to the underachievement of male youths.
As a result of first world influences, she said the trappings of success had become success, regardless of its source.
‘Boys learn early that crime does pay – and pays well, too – and, accordingly, will engage in illegal activity for the reward it brings them.
Mrs. Addindell asked whether working mothers were neglecting male youths by seeming to concentrate on the accumulation of possessions rather than imparting values.
Or, she continued, is it the fathers, absent for generations and abdicating their responsibilities for role-modelling, for financial support and for guidance?
‘Or is it the boys themselves who, with their lack of ambition, their need for immediate gratification, their penchant for hard cash for easy work, who have let down the side?’
Senator Wayne Cairns from Bermuda told attendees Bermuda was trying to help disenfranchised male youths by requiring foreign investors to educate Bermudians and give them a chance to participate in running new developments.
But Mrs. Addindell asked why such a programme was needed.
‘Why do we have to make it a condition that you must train us in order to get these concessions? Where is our part? Where is our responsibility?’
Bahamas MP Kwasi Thompson asked whether there was a poverty of aspiration among the regions young males.
His counterpart, Shane Gibson said the Bahamas Government had undertaken a number of initiatives to enfranchise young men. But, he added, ultimate responsibility must fall to the family unit rather than government.
West Bay MLA Rolston Anglin told attendees he could appreciate the influence modern pop culture could have on male youth – he was in a break dancing troop as a young teenager.
He said it was hard for parents to understand the issues children face.
‘We offer degrees in everything imaginable except parenting. The most important part of being a human being is the legacy you leave – passing on those values to the next generation so they can be stronger.’
Mr. Anglin said government interventions could help, but ultimate responsibility had to rest with the family unit.
He said experience with Cayman’s National Parenting Program showed that good parents were prepared to improve their parenting skills, but those most at need of help often stayed home.
‘Until parents are better equipped and better understand what their children are going through, this will be a challenge, and it is not just in this region,’ he said.
The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference continues until Saturday.