Afro-Caribbean Males and the Education Crisis
By Jessica Rayne
It is not a surprise to many of us that Afro-Caribbean males have not been adequately represented in post-secondary schools. During my fourth year in university I decided to pursue my honours thesis on this topic, after doing an exchange program at the University of the West Indies. In 2009 the university had a 69/31 ratio of women to men. What is striking about this statistic is not the fact that there are more women enrolled in the university than men, as women tend to always out number men in education in the western world, but it is the large disparity between the two genders. Furthermore, even when these males are compared to their Indo-Asian Caribbean counterparts and their Canadian counterparts, Afro-Caribbean males’ presence is significantly less.
The factors that perpetuate these statistics are different in Canada and the Caribbean. In Canada, institutionalized racism, immigration patterns, low-socioeconomic status, and family structure are characteristics that contribute to the Afro-Caribbean males under achievements. However, a key factor enabling the reproduction of this trend has to do with the fact that many of these males do not perceive they will be rewarded for their educational pursuits. Literature and statistics reveal that post-secondary education does not translate into upward social mobility for this particular group, which influences their decision to pursue post-secondary education. Black males are paid lower than most male visible minorities in Canada. The lack of black male role models to display the rewards of education makes it difficult for these men to believe that pursuing post-secondary education would be a rewarding option, especially in Canadian society.
A UN study on gender inequalities in the Caribbean revealed that Jamaica is one of the only countries where emphasis on education is solely placed on the female. From an early age, women are reared to obtain high academic achievement while men are given much less attention in this area. This cultural value is important to illustrate because it transcends across borders. Blacks are the third largest minority group in Canada with the majority being of Caribbean descent. In 2001, almost all Blacks (97%) lived in urban areas and nearly one half (47%) of the Black population, about 310,500, lived in the Toronto census metropolitan area. In Toronto, 57% of Blacks were foreign-born. Close to three-quarters (73%) of the 178,200 foreign-born Blacks in Toronto were born in the Caribbean, and South and Central America, mainly from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana. These statistics depicts how close to home issues of the Caribbean are. Large percentages of Caribbeans immigrate to Canada making them an integral part of the Canadian society.
- watch this documentary about black boys in school - PART I - PART 2 - PART 3
Education & “Uptown-ness” in Jamaica
By Krista Jennings
Education holds significant value in today’s world. It represents and embodies how people perceive, understand and interact with one another. In the Caribbean, particularly in Jamaica, education dictates who you are and the level of respect you receive. For example: an executive director of an engineering firm enters a National Commercial Bank (NCB) branch in the corporate area in Kingston. There is an assumption that the executive represents the “uptown” dimension of Jamaica’s social circle. This ‘uptown’ circle , consist of individuals of the middle/upper class that are afforded the opportunity to attend preparatory schools, the traditional high schools such as Campion College, which are representations of accomplishment and elitism.
In Jamaica there is an unfortunate social line that defines a person, based on the type of school one attends. The education system, through the Grade Six Assessment Test (GSAT), assists in creating this obstacle. The GSAT is a placement test that assess, and to some degree aims at preparing students for high school. The extent to which the GSAT prepares students is something that extends further than this piece. But what I will say is it places students who excel in the traditional high schools and students who aren’t so successful in non-traditional schools. Non-traditional high schools are funded primarily by the government and are often faced with over-crowding; geographically many are located in inner city communities that pose a circle of other issues, such as crime. This placement creates a social ‘culture’, as young people feel rejected by the education system and often as if they are at the bottom of the barrel in Jamaica’s society.
In the Jamaica Observer, Sunday May 2, 2010, Tamara Scott-Williams states: “For the uninitiated, the 10-year-old GSAT (Grade Six Achievement Test) is the one-and-only chance for your Grade Six student to get into a "quality" high school in which self-defense techniques are not required learning”. This creates a limitation on the future of young people in Jamaica and also creates a strenuous relationship with the growth and development of the island. A remedy to this is zoning - to place students in high schools based on their geographical locations. Even though this idea has been brought to the table there hasn’t been substantial efforts to put it into action. Another interesting point highlighted by Scott-Williams is that zoning was brought to the table in many discussions around the effectiveness of the placement of the GSAT. The adequacy of the GSAT lies primarily in the uneven divide for students who live in inner city communities. Also those who exceed the expectations of the test, would be subjected to attending a school in their community that often lacks the facilities and resources to assist students in achieving at their full potential.
All in all, Jamaican society creates the divisions that are remnants of slave society which creates massive limitations on the success of an education system that has tremendous value and potential.
- Watch children getting prepared to take GSAT exam in Jamaica, courtesy of AFIWI International