Teachers needed to tackle “misplaced” views about masculinity in the classrooms to enable black male pupils to live up to their potential. *AFP photo
Teachers needed to tackle “misplaced” views about masculinity in the classrooms to enable black male pupils to live up to their potential. *AFP photo
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 26: Government adviser Rolfe Commissiong yesterday backed a top Jamaican teacher’s claim that some black schoolboys don’t perform at school because academic achievement is seen as ‘gay’.

But Mr Commissiong, who specialises in race relations and was instrumental in having the Mincy Report into young black men commissioned, said the problem went deeper than schools and reflected what black schoolboys saw in the home and workplace.

Mr Commissiong explained: “If you have a disproportionate number of black women working in business or office environments and fathers are working in blue collar areas, then you can understand why boys should take their cues from their male role models.”

Mr Commissiong added that “institutional racism”, where black women were more easily absorbed into white power structures than black men, also played a part.

Mr Commissiong said: “Back in the day, people asked why should they get an education if it was going to be very difficult to get a job in what you trained for as a black male.

“Change has to happen in the classroom and we also need change in the broader perceptions in the community and in stereotypes.

“Change needs to happen in the home — mothers can reinforce these perceptions as well, so parents have to play their part.”

Mr Commission was speaking after Adolph Cameron, general secretary of the Jamaican Teachers’ Union, said in an interview with the BBC that boys from an Afro-Caribbean background in both Britain and Jamaica performed poorly at school because they feared they would be accused of being gay.

Mr Cameron added: “That notion of masculinity says that if as a male you aspire to perform highly it means you are feminine, even to the extent of saying you are gay.

“But in the context of Jamaica, which is so homophobic, male students don’t want to be categorised in that way so that they would deliberately underperform in order to show that they are not.”

Mr Cameron said that front-line teachers needed to tackle “misplaced” views about masculinity in the classrooms to reverse the trend and allow black male pupils to live up to their potential.

He was speaking at an English National Union of Teachers event in Bristol, England, aimed at promoting educational achievement among black schoolboys.

Mr Cameron said that many young black men in Jamaica often turned to a “hustle culture” to make money rather than targeting careers which require academic attainment.

He added: “Education takes second place to notions of entrepreneurship as predominantly our young men, get involved in the informality of what University of the West Indies academics have called a ‘hustle culture’.

“I would not be surprised if here in England the same or similar things occur in terms of how they feel about themselves and how they respond to and react with respect to the society around them.

“Boys are more interested in hustling, which is a quick way of making a living, rather than making the commitment to study. This is supposed to be a street thing, which is a male thing.

“The influence of this attitude towards masculinity seems to be having a tremendous impact on how well African-Caribbean and Jamaican males do.

“There’s a fear of being categorised as gay in a society where homophobia is so strong.”

Mr Cameron questioned whether the concept of academic achievement could co-exist with ideas of “black masculinity” in contemporary culture.

He said the issue needed more investigation, but that teachers in Jamaica had realised it was an issue that needed to be tackled.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the English National Union of Teachers, said: “There are obviously issues for black boys both in Jamaica and the UK. We need system-wide reform to ensure that the system does not disadvantage black boys.

“Experience tells us that some black boys do achieve and what we have to do is replicate those systems which enabled them to achieve success.”