Time for men to step up as mentors

Sport and Community Development Minister Shamfa Cudjoe. File photo by Sureash Cholai
Sport and Community Development Minister Shamfa Cudjoe. File photo by Sureash Cholai

ON WEDNESDAY, Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe called for more men to consider careers in teaching and psychology, believing that men mentoring boys and male teens could improve the government's social initiatives.

That she made the call while addressing the ministry's Mpower TT Masters community programme suggests that the effort, which targets at-risk or vulnerable 18 to 40-year-old males, has underlined the need.

This concern is reflected in initiatives already in place in the wider global community, with such projects as the Mankind Project, Mentoring Men and 3MB – Men Mentoring Men and Boys, engaged in pairing experienced and successful elder males with young men and boys in need of peer-led guidance.

The Australian Mentoring Men organisation targets the large profile of male suicides in that country (75 per cent) by engaging at-risk young men.

As many as 28 per cent of single-parent homes in TT are led by mothers, often supported by other women. Support for a child by a single mother and extended family is not a new development, but the modern and criminal temptations that assail vulnerable families are significant.

Beyond endorsing Ms Cudjoe's call, it seems opportune to amplify it by calling for more formally established mentoring opportunities for boys at an earlier age, to support mothers who are often stretched to the limit providing for their families and holding their households together.

In these challenged environments, another issue arises, as reported in 2021 by the Children's Authority.

According to the authority, of the 27,437 cases of child abuse reported to the organisation between May 2015 and February 2021, 9,713, or 35.4 per cent, were cases of mothers abusing their children. In that report, child neglect was the most prevalent form of abuse, representing 33.9 per cent of all reports or 9,301 cases.

As early as 2015, it was widely known that much as 60 per cent of boys at the Youth Training Centre were raised by single mothers and abandoned by absentee fathers.

Ms Cudjoe is pointing to an ailment that has already been identified, but the diagnosis hasn't been met with an adequately decisive remedy.

The Mpower TT Masters programme is an admirable effort, and no doubt has yielded positive results since it was initiated in 2019, but the engagement with this plague of paternal abandonment and the cycle of poverty, stress and neglect that follows it must be addressed more systematically.

There needs to be more decisive and institutional social engagement with all at-risk children and beyond a call for more male mentors, a formal system that teams them with the boys and young men who need to hear from them.


"Time for men to step up as mentors"

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