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‘Save the boys – Save Jamaica’

Published:Thursday | October 7, 2021 | 12:08 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter
The front cover of Pauline Gregory Lewis’ book, ‘The Obedient Cow’.
The front cover of Pauline Gregory Lewis’ book, ‘The Obedient Cow’.

EXPRESSING HER passion for helping children, particularly boys, Pauline Gregory Lewis who wears several hats, including that of volunteer, author and teacher, says the time has come for Jamaicans to redouble their efforts at rescuing young men from a life of crime, decadence and antisocial behaviour.

In a 2017 ‘Youth, Peace and Security Case Study’ co-authored by Dr Elizabeth Ward, Kaodi McGraw and Carl Marsh, it is reported that youth are the primary cohort of the population that are most affected by crime and violence in Jamaica, both as victims and perpetrators. Young males between the ages of 16 and 24 are the main victims and culprits of violent crimes.

Gregory Lewis, who chairs the Gender and Community Development Sector at the Council of Voluntary Social Services (CVSS), said the organisation is working on a programme dubbed: ‘Save the Boys – Save Jamaica’.

The urgency to find workable solutions to steer youngsters from a life of delinquency has been reinforced by Gregory Lewis, who is pushing for steps to be taken to shape the minds of boys, preparing them to become meaningful members of the society.

As part of her organiser’s thrust to connect with boys, the volunteer said that efforts will be made to engage positive role models to interact with boys. “Not one woman must speak to the boys, only the males. Let us take Usain Bolt, let us try and find some of the deejays that are singing positive songs and have a message that is sensible, to talk with them.”

She bemoaned the number of young boys who are loitering daily on the streets of the Corporate Area. “One was just wiping my glass. If I opened my door too wide it would hit him over, he was so small. I pulled the window down and said, ‘why you not in school’, and he just looked at me and hissed his teeth and walked off.”

The education ministry reported in May that more than 120,000 students across Jamaica had been absent from classes in the last year as teaching became accessible online as a result of COVID-19.

“This is bad. Where are we going if we don’t save our boys, many of whom are involved in crime?” Gregory Lewis wondered aloud, stressing that “‘we have to find a way to save our boys”.

Not purporting to have all the answers to a seemingly intractable problem, Gregory Lewis said that a lot of studies and papers have prescribed solutions to the problems plaguing boys in particular. However, she is of the view that there was an urgent need for more practical work to be done to change the mindsets of young men in the society.

“We are in virtual classrooms now and boys are having a challenge. I call parents that I know with boys and ask how they are managing. ‘Pauline, it not happening’,” Gregory Lewis said she was told by many.

“We need a lot more injection of men of example that can interact with them. Some of them want to do better but they need help because they are not getting the help at home.”

With COVID-19 protocols thwarting planned face-to-face interactions, the volunteer said the group is contemplating online arrangements to facilitate the pep talks.

“If we don’t save the boys we are doomed,” Gregory Lewis emphasised.

Donning her author’s hat, Gregory Lewis said she has written a series named The Obedient Cow, aimed at imparting to youngsters the necessity of embracing values and attitudes.

Geared towards children at the primary level, the series highlights positive standards of behaviour using animals as its main characters to convey the message.

Gregory Lewis said the books were written from an inspiration emanating from her interactions with children, parents, teachers, principals and guidance counsellors.

As executive director of the Poverty Alleviation and Empowerment Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, Gregory Lewis, through her organisation, helps with breakfast programmes in schools and provides scholarships for children in need.

Having observed a dramatic plunge in values and attitudes among children, the author said she felt duty-bound to come up with some plan to reach the youngsters.

She noted that the common thread in the series is to get children to appreciate and demonstrate the importance of displaying good values and attitudes.

Citing one of the challenges in instilling values and attitudes in children, Gregory Lewis argued that it can be an uphill task when children are bombarded with examples of antisocial behaviour at home and in their communities.

“Children live what they learn, you can’t get around that, and as such the parents need to become more involved and recognise that this is their major role. The children are gifts from God and they need to do what is right just to ensure that the values and attitudes are there so that it can help them in their quest to succeed.”

The process of socialising the young to become useful members of the society cannot be left to teachers only, Gregory Lewis added.

The Obedient Cow series can be found in bookstores.