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The boys on the block

The boys on the block

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Thirty-seven homicides have been committed in SVG so far for 2017. Naturally, every sane person, including myself, is concerned with this unusually high homicide statistic.

It is customary for us to express shock every time someone is murdered or injured due to gang violence; then we quickly forget and move on. The fact is, we can’t keep ignoring these murders simply because it doesn’t directly affect us. We owe it to the youth to look out for their best interest, and prevent them from falling out of the system.

I specifically mention the school system because almost all the men involved in gangs and gang violence come from poor socio-economic backgrounds and have limited education. Truthfully, most of them never complete secondary school, or worse primary school.

In 2013, 2,314 students wrote the Common Entrance Exam; 1,210 males and 1,104 females respectively. However, when you dive into the data, you realize only 570 males and 720 females passed, even though more males registered for the exam. The females collectively surpassed the males by 150 passes, with an approximate 12 per cent margin. This is a very significant difference, and it indicates a serious discrepancy between males and females in the schooling system. I do not for one second believe that any sex is superior to the other when it comes to academics. Therefore, the problem cannot be reduced to “girls are just smarter,” as that narrative is false and damaging to our male youths.

The reason I brought up this statistic was to illustrate just how early boys begin to fall behind girls. We all know the importance of the Common Entrance Exam and how it plays a huge role in determining a child’s future, and it is very important that we acknowledge this alarming trend. Moreover, the trend continues into secondary schools. In 2017, the top female school, the St Vincent Girls’ High School, achieved a 95.56 per cent pass rate and the top male school, the St Vincent Grammar School achieved 87.5 per cent. This represents an 8.06 per cent difference in pass rates.

These statistics show a very clear trend of males being left behind in the education system. These fail rates are significant because they represent just how many males are left behind each year. The males do not simply go into obscurity; they are still living within our society. Even though you might not care enough to be concerned, be warned that these young men who are forced out of the system often seek acceptance elsewhere.

This is where the problem becomes exacerbated. The transition from dropout to criminal is an easy one. We often demonize these young men for living a life of crime, when we are the ones that failed them.

We cry shame at the execution style killings, while simultaneously doing absolutely nothing to prevent more from happening. It is so easy to turn a blind eye when you know you won’t be affected by gang violence. We have the nerve to sleep easy at night, because unlike those young men, the system did not fail us. Unlike those young men, we have support systems and fancy diplomas and degrees. Unlike those young men, we have someone to care about us.

These young men are forced to fend for themselves at a very young age and do whatever they can to survive. Ask yourself this: if you had grown up in the same situation, would you have lived your life differently? Would you have taken the high road and sold coconuts on the street corner for an honest living? It is time for us to stop turning a blind eye and do something to help these young men. It is never too late to help them. We need to show them that the country cares about them and that we’re willing to correct our gross neglect.

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