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Boy bares soul

Tearful teen shares plight as schoolboys empowered

BY TANESHA MUNDLE
Observer staff reporter
mundlet@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

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A schoolboy, who was forced to leave his community because of violence that claimed the lives of most of his male relatives, broke down in tears as he spoke about the problems he is now having with his father at home.

The 15-year-old Cumberland High School student spoke candidly with the Jamaica Observer about his issues and his intention to change his “bad behaviour at school” after listening to the motivating words of Reverend Marcus Williams during an empowerment session for grade nine boys at the St Catherine school last Thursday.

Following the interactive session, which was well-received by the boy and his peers, the 15-year-old said: “It was good. When mi did a listen everything, mi feel like cry 'cause more while mi deh a school a bare trouble mi give, but from mi come back inna grade nine mi a try fi change that. But more while some things a gwaan a mi yard, mi just come school and tek it out on some other people.”

The boy, with tears streaming down his face, disclosed that he was living with his mother in a St Catherine community, but they had to relocate after most of his male relatives were killed and they were threatened.

As as result, he was sent to live with his father, but he said their relationship has deteriorated since his father's girlfriend entered the equation.

“Him say next time him and him girlfriend fall out, him a guh put me out,” the teenager said.

“Sometimes mi come school, mi nuh feel like fi do no work 'cause mi nuh go home and get nothing to eat. Only thing him gimme a lunch money fi come school, so more while me nuh do nuh work; but when mi ready, mi siddung and do mi work.

“Sometimes mi even try change some things 'bout mi, and dem a say dem see some changes, but mi need to change mi ways — the people weh mi a par wid.

“More while mi nuh have nobody fi siddung and talk to, mi need somebody to siddung and talk to mi. Before mi father start talk to deh girl deh, him used to siddung and talk to mi, but only thing him deh pon now is mi fi have manners to har,” he said. “Mi have manners, but is like sometime mi upset 'cause mi nuh waa see she with mi father.”

According to the teenaged boy, he is really unhappy about living with his father and wishes he could live with his mother.

Another schoolboy, who spoke to the Observer, said he, too, has been inspired to change following the session.

“It a guh mek mi change: Stop gi trouble, behave miself, go class, do mi work, and stop follow bad company,” he said.

He also indicated that the session was very informative and that a lot of what was said was what he needed to hear.

“Every term it fi keep,” he added.

When asked what are some of the changes his teachers and parents can expect, he quickly said: “Mi need to change mi bad behaviour. Listen to mi parents; stop gi bare trouble a school, and do weh dem send mi come a school fi do, and don't waste dem money.”

The school's guidance counsellor, Wayne Brown, as well as the the grade nine supervisor, Tamara Grant, both of whom organised the session, were notified about the issues that one of the boys had related.

Brown told the Observer that a lot of the boys are experiencing serious issues.

“A number of them have abandonment issues, so the person who is supposed to be at home providing the care, the love, the nurture, is not there; and then you have some who have to go and work, and you have others who have seen their fathers killed in front of them, either by police or gunmen; and you have a number of them who are coming from troubled communities. For example, I remember corresponding with one and he relayed in a day he was seeing three dead bodies. For me that would be traumatic, but for him it was the norm, because in a month he walked passed a number of them to come to school. This is one of the reasons why we see it coming out in their behaviour,” the guidance counsellor explained.

“It's not so much so that our boys just bad and don't waan siddung, they would have seen things that traumatised them; they would have known of family members who have been threatened and can't go 'cross the fence; and they have all these things bottled up inside them and they don't have anybody to talk to because the whole 'informa' culture is still around,” he added.

Nevertheless, Brown said besides the empowerment session, the school recognises a male empowerment month. He said, too, that he also has one-on-one counselling sessions with the boys.

According to the guidance counsellor, a number of the schoolboys shy away from visiting his office, so he regularly closes his office and walks around the compound to engage them in an effort to build a closer relationship so that they will feel comfortable speaking to him when they need to.

“The Jamaican man was cultured in a way that says, 'Man is not supposed to cry,' and that 'Man is not supposed to be chatty chatty,' so we have to be finding ways to get around that culture,” he told the Observer.

“We need more focus on men, not just in school, but in the country,” Brown added.

He pointed to the fact that there is little or no advocacy for physical abuse of men, and a lack of support groups for men, including those who are with serious medical problems such as cancer.

“One of the things that society needs to do is to balance the whole thing, and then when it is balanced you won't find men being so hard and cold because of suppressing so many things,” the guidance counsellor said.

Meanwhile, Reverend Williams, who not only delivered a heartfelt message, but also deejayed and rapped during his speech, urged the boys to set goals for themselves and start working towards them.

“I am saying to you today, the first thing you need is a goal. Grade nine boys, when you leave here today, go home, write down your goal; it's possible.

“The second thing is a made-up mind, and third and final, you have to work towards it. You have to put in the work,” Reverend Williams said. “You will not achieve it if you don't put in the work.

“I am the only person in my family out of eight children, five boys an' three girls, who own a house. I am the only one who is married; the only one who has vehicles registered to my name.

“You want to know the truth, I came from a poor family, but I had a made-up mind. The first bed I owned after I leave my mom's house was a second-hand bed,” the reverend continued.

According to Williams, he went on his own at age 17 and started working.

“I rent mi own place and mi get a little work, and dem used to pay mi $2,000 a week. But inside, I just feel like there was something more. I was so depressed that every time I go di place to buy lunch I end up a buying cigarette wid mi change; and mi a say, 'No man, a depressed mi depress,' and mi start feel some kind a way.

“One Wednesday I just went upstairs to the boss and say, 'Brother, I am resigning. I cannot stay here,' and him say, 'But you just start,' and I said, 'This is not it,'” Reverend Williams recounted.

He said he got another job, but within two weeks he resigned as he was still not at peace with himself.

“I have resigned over 14 jobs. The best one I had was chauffeuring a lady in Kingston; I mean I used to make good money, and even though I was making so much, inside me I was still unfulfilled...” he said.

As result, Reverend Williams said he eventually went back to school and pursued several different courses, which resulted in him landing jobs that made him start to feel some level of fulfilment.

Before closing, he told the boys to ensure that they do not not leave school without passing examinations, as it is very competitive in today's society, and things will be harder for them if they leave school without a skill or a subject.

“You dominate this time in your life. Yuh nuh have no time to waste. You have some girls out there, dem shape good, dem teeth dem white, dem have dimples, and dem belly flat, but don't let dem draw you out. Some of these girls have nothing to offer you more than little sex,” he told the boys.

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