July 30, 2008


Posted in Guyana, Messages, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Thoughts tagged , , at 2:59 am by randallbutisingh



Recently, I was asked about his advice to youth in Guyana. My answer mentioned the need for strict parental controls, but did not touch directly on the issue of “Absentee Fathers”. Subsequently, this article appeared in Guyana’s Stabroek News with some important issues relating to Guyana, but which could also apply as well to many other countries. I have selected the most important paragraphs.

Randall Butisingh

The following are excerpts from the Guyana’s Stabroek News article of July 28, 2008 – based on sociological interviews and written by Iana Seales.

Discourse on the declining male leadership in homes is a ‘hot’ topic especially in a country where child deliquents are increasing every year and too many fall at the hands of law enforcement in a vicious cycle of rebellion, gang recruitment and deadly confrontation. In the last few years Guyana has recorded the names of boys, still too young to vote, on its register of notorious criminals:

University of Guyana sociologist Andrew Hicks believes that the absence of fathers in homes creates all kinds of vulnerabilities given that both parents enforce value systems. He said that a significant number of fatherless children look to peers and pointed out that the peer culture contradicts the family culture, adding that in some instances the peer culture is a gang culture.

Though he acknowledged that a number of single parent households have turned out well-adjusted adults, Hicks said too many young men were starved of a father. He asserted that the lack of a male role model in homes was a critical issue because for most children men still represented the traditional definition of authority.

Fredrick Cox of the Guyana Responsible Parent-hood Association (GRPA) said the myriad challenges of everyday life take a toll on many men who bow out feeling pressured, and in other instances, they just leave because they want to. He said too that there is a growing number of independent women with earning power who are standing up and questioning decisions in the home. This has not gone down well with some men so they opt out of the relationship leaving their children without a “most needed father figure”.

Many young fathers is becoming the norm: In a family planning study that was undertaken earlier this year by Hicks in the Sociology Department at the University of Guyana, Faculty of Social Sciences,  there was a clear disconnect between the behaviours and values of Guyanese men who consider age 25 to be ideal for starting a family but end up as parents at age 19. According to Hicks, this has implications for family planning as it relates to relationships and subsequent parental failure.

The sociologist said that a number of persons who become parents are not ready for the role, and this impacted negatively on children and consequently increased their vulnerability for recruitment into criminal enterprises.

He noted that children today were interacting with particularly violent media at all levels, citing vicious images in music videos and films. The media, he said, were indirectly legitimatizing violence “which now appears normative in so many societies”

The Guyana National Service was set up by the former PNC government but was disbanded by the PPP government when they took office in 1992..

Hicks recalled that only recently Professor Clive Thomas had made strong points about the disbanding of the Guyana National Service (GNS). And while agreeing with the de-militarization of the GNS to some extent, he said the dismantling of the civic component of it was a poor judgment call. He said the youths acquired practical skills from the GNS and after leaving were empowered to start small businesses. Added to this, he said, it was a diversion from potential criminal enterprises. Further, he said, a certain level of discipline was inculcated in youth who were part of the GNS.

He said parents could not do it alone as it takes a community to raise a child. Hicks said the breakdown of traditional family structures in the society, particularly the extended family, has impacted negatively on many children. He said that in some communities there were extended families looking out for youths while in others, this was notably absent.

According to him, it was regrettable that many of the young criminals would have grown up during the current administration. But he pointed out that successive governments had not effectively addressed the issue of race which he said was important if certain key problems were to be tackled in specific communities, adding that approaches to addressing ethnic problems have all been window dressing.

Hicks noted that firmer government policies were needed with respect to young men, particularly those growing up in tough communities. Still, he added, other stakeholders such as families and communities must also get involved.

Collaborative effort was required. Cox agreed that young men would continue to go astray if the government, the community, NGOs, civil society and families failed to work together. He said a collaborative effort, if executed in the right manner would significantly impact upon the society.

He pointed out that there was evidence of strategies that worked in the past, which should be employed now such as calling on the community to take up a greater role in the lives of its younger members. Cox noted that young people today were more aggressive in their attitudes but added that they needed to have values re-enforced all the time.

The absence of a father did not necessarily mean that a child would go astray or rebel against his/her mother, Cox said, but he pointed out that it did create vulnerability, particularly for young men.
He commented on the disintegration of extended families in many communities considered ‘difficult’, saying that the numbers show that many young men from those areas were going astray as opposed to young men in other communities.

“We are still a religious society and we must therefore get our leaders in the various faiths to work along with us in changing attitudes and making a difference in the lives of these young men,” Cox added..

Stabroek News. – July 28, 2008. by Iana Seales.


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