LAGOS, NIGERIA – 17 February 2019 – Institutions, organizations, and individuals throughout our global village will observe “World Day Of The Boy Child” on 16 May 2018 under the theme, “Protecting Our Boys . . . Reclaiming Our Heritage”. Of the 7.6 billion souls with whom we share Planet Earth, 3,874,259,756 are males and 1,004,638,305 souls of these souls are under the age of 15. Boys are more than mere extensions of ourselves. These souls represent our heritage and serve as one of the links to the past and the present that intersects with the future of our families, our communities, and our world. Created under the International Men’s Day umbrella, “World Day Of The Boy Child” was inaugurated in 2018 by Gender Issues Thought Leader, humanitarian, faculty member in the History Department at the University of West Indies, prolific author, and International Men’s Day Founder JEROME TEELUCKSINGH, PH.D.
The 1,004,638,305 souls who are males under the age of 15 – boys – emerged from the womb with irrepressible enthusiasm, insatiable curiosity, a natural and spontaneous reaction to disappointment, rejection, failure, and spiritual, physical, psychological, and emotional pain, and a pristine view of the world. They are fragile and vulnerable. Somewhere along the journey from boyhood to manhood, boys are socialized not to express the natural and spontaneous reactions to spiritual, physical, emotional, and psychological pain, disappointment, and rejection. They are socialized to equate strength and masculinity with suppressing their natural and spontaneous reaction to pain, disappointment, and rejection; not asking for help; and shunning vulnerability. In actuality, vulnerability is about strength – it is about standing in front of another soul spiritually, psychologically, and emotionally naked. Many of these 1,004,638,305 souls are suicidal, slowly descending into the deep dark abyss of depression, and consumed by low self-esteem and repressed emotions.
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an organization based in Paris, France which administers the triennial Programme for International Student Assessment (“PISA”) which examines the proficiency of 15 year olds in over 90 nations in reading, reading comprehension, science, mathematics, writing, and writing comprehension – boys throughout our global village are academically underperforming their female counterparts. The PISA scores for girls are much higher than those of boys in reading, reading comprehension, and writing comprehension. Boys find it difficult to navigate a literacy-based curriculum. Educators and school administrators equate boys’ difficulty or inability to read with their level of intelligence, label them as either “intellectually challenged” or “unteachable”, and arbitrarily ship them off to special education classes. The majority of these boys are brilliant. Rather than investigating why boys have difficulty developing reading and reading comprehension skills or making adjustments in the curriculum – adjustments which would include infusing the curriculum with reading material that interests boys and captivate their attention -- boys are allowed to read several grades below their current grade level. Eventually, they lose interest in school and drop out. Unless an individual, organization, or institution intervenes, these souls will mature into uneducated, unemployable, and unskilled adults who will find it difficult to resist the pull of gravity of illegitimate economic opportunities and the fast track to prison.
At least 3,000,000,000 souls are living on less than US$2.50 each day and approximately 1,000,000,000 children are living in poverty – many of whom are boys. Boys born into impoverished families are unable to attend school because the cost of textbooks and school supplies exceed the family’s monthly or annual income. The International Labour Organization which is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland estimates that approximately 1,199,400,000 children are engaged in child labor. It further estimates that 786,600,000 of the 1,199,400,000 young souls engaged in child labor are boys. There are between approximately 300,000 to 500,000 child soldiers – children as young as 7 years old – who are recruited to serve in armed militias – children who are witness to and participants in atrocious acts of brutality and deadly violence. Approximately 60% of the souls forced to serve as child soldiers are boys. The United Nations’ most recent “Children And Armed Conflict Report” monitored the violation of children’s rights in 20 nations that are engulfed in bloody conflicts. These nations employ the services of children who serve as solders, suicide bombers, spies, and messengers. Verified cases of recruitment and employment of children as soldiers in nations which include, but are not limited to, Yemen, the Syrian Arab Republic, South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo appear in the report. Since 2017, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund has helped more than 8,700 children – many of whom are boys -- who served as child soldiers and were released from armed groups that engaged their services to reintegrate into civilian life and find and reunite with their families.
“World Day Of The Boy Child” serves as a platform for individuals, organizations, and institutions to improve the manner in which we protect our boys and reclaim our heritage. How? Global and Regional Coordinators for “World Day Of The Boy Child” are offering a few suggestions:
- Rewrite the narrative on strength and masculinity by equating strength with vulnerability.
- Facilitate and moderate Global and National Town Halls which serve as venues for boys and adolescent males to engage in a “straight-no chaser dialogue” to express to key stakeholders what they need and want to safely and successfully navigate the arduous journey from boyhood to manhood. The key stakeholders with whom boys and adolescent young males
would engage in discussions include educators, school administrators, law enforcement professionals, legal professionals, health care professionals and providers, social services professionals and providers, parents, legislators, business leaders, and Fatherhood and Men’s Issues advocates and practitioners. Global and National Town Hall Meetings would also serve as a venue for boys and adolescent males to co-design and co-monitor -- with key stakeholders -- initiatives that provide them with the resources and tools they need to successfully and safely navigate their journey from boyhood to manhood.
- Identify and support existing initiatives which have a successful track record of addressing and helping to eradicate the (A) academic underperformance of boys and adolescent males and their mischaracterization as being “unteachable”, “intellectually challenged”, and “behavior problems”; (B) rising incidence of depression and suicide among boys and adolescent males; (C) recruitment and utilization of boys and adolescent males as child soldiers; (D) underlying causes of poverty which lead to boys and adolescent males working full-time to support their families and not attending school; (E) literacy gap for boys and adolescent males; (F) lack of legitimate real-life options; and (G) lack of positive male role models.
- Employ male educators and administrators in schools located in communities that have Fatherless households or households devoid of a dominant male presence.
- Design and implement “male-inclusive” curricula in Grades K-12 – by introducing reading material that captures the interest of boys and adolescent males. Primary schools and high schools would be required to provide its male student population from ages 5 through 17 with textbooks and classroom and reading materials that are action and science-oriented and informational.
- Design and implement a “No Boy Left Behind Literacy Initiative” which results in every boy reading at least one grade level above his current grade.
- Offset the repressed anger of boys and adolescent males which is a by-product of their current socialization with the design of mandatory anger management and conflicts resolution training. All primary schools and high schools would be required to include and implement mandatory anger management and conflicts resolution training in their curricula. As a result, boys in the 5 through 17 age group in every school can be provided with essential emotional, psychological, and decision-making tools that will help them safely and successfully navigate the arduous journey from boyhood to manhood.