Mon | May 27, 2019

British Council partners with GraceKennedy for boys’ mentoring programme

Published:Sunday | April 28, 2019 | 12:17 AM
Businessman Greg Purkiss engages a group of boys during the 2017 Boys Can Mentoring Day activities.
Menswear designer Carlton Brown engaged the boys on etiquette, confidence, and appearance during the 2017 Boys Can Mentoring Day.
Keroma Bernard, director at Bernard Sustainable Consulting, carried out mentoring duties during the 2017 Boys Can Mentoring Day activities.
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The British Council will be presenting their third annual Boys in Education Week from April 29 to May 2 under the theme Boys Can!

This year, the British Council is using their Boys in Education Week of activities as a precursor to their islandwide Boys Can Mentoring Programme. With the support of the Grace & Staff Community Development Foundation. Year One of this three-year programme is set to launch in May.

“Last year, we presented an opportunity for our male students (Grades 5-9) to highlight the challenges and opportunities in their school life. Simultaneously, we brought parents, teachers, and policy-influencing stakeholders to the table to engage each other in a meaningful way to discuss challenges, opportunities, and possible solutions to address boys’ learning, motivation, and engagement,” said Olayinka Jacobs-Bonnick, British Council’s country director for Jamaica.

She added that they would aim to address the wider issue of gender equity with a view to demonstrating how engaging boys contributes to a more egalitarian education system for the advancement of both boys and girls.

“Now, with the support of the Grace and Staff Community Development Foundation, we will be working with more than 30 schools across the island to provide active mentoring for some of their most vulnerable male students, with the hope of not only encouraging them to remain in school through career mentoring, but to help them to develop healthier relationships and lifestyle choices,” Jacobs-Bonnick said.

According to the Creating Equity in Teaching and Learning module by the Jamaica Teaching Council, “the concerns for the underperformance of boys have been expressed islandwide. The results of various formal examinations provide the evidence that the education of boys is in a crisis.

“The question of why boys are underperforming within our school system has been linked to a number of factors, including teaching methodology, socio-economic background, lack of communal support from parents and schools, and the structure of the education system insufficiently caters to the needs of young men.”

Set solid foundation

Tanketa Chance-Wilson, general manager at the Grace and Staff Community Development Foundation, said that the goal of the programme aligns with their core principles.

“Given the current and ongoing widespread discussion about the range of influences faced by our young people, and our young men in particular, we realise our responsibility in helping them to be their best selves now and set a solid foundation for them to grow,” she said.

The Grace and Staff Community Development Foundation has been a supporter of Boys in Education Week since its inception in 2017.

The programme will feature more than 30 mentors across multiple career disciplines, each working with one school. Over the period of a year, mentees, mentors, teachers, and parents will be taken through a programme to explore aspects of career development, emotional intelligence, leadership and confidence building, conflict management, communication, and problem-solving skills.

For the 2019 Boys in Education Week, UNESCO has come on board as a strategic partner as the activities align with the work the organisation has been doing around masculinity. The four days of activities will take place at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown.

On April 29, there will be an Empowering Educators Seminar, by UNESCO, exploring inclusive pedagogies. Through group discussions and break-out activities, educators will explore alternative ways of teaching boys in an effort to help address the underperformance of male students. The event guest speaker will be Dr Margaret Chin.

On April 30, there will be an Empowering Parents Seminar, lead by UNESCO, exploring what a positive male role model looks like. Professor Opal Palmer Adisa will lead a panel that will facilitate discussion around masculinity and equip parents with skills to motivate their boys as they move through their academic journey.

On May 1, the focus will revolve around mentoring at least 80 boys drawn from schools across Jamaica, mentored by leaders and professionals from across the island. The boys will have an opportunity to engage mentors on a variety of topics of interest through shared learning and an exchange of ideas.

The Careers Speed-Mentoring Day for boys and girls will be on May 2. Professionals from organisations across the island will engage the students in one-on-one sessions aimed at steering them towards achievable career goals, engendering more confidence in their ability to contribute responsibly to society while creating a safe space for dialogue and sharing new ideas.