Opinion | What about the boy child?

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What about the boy child? Photo: Getty Images.
What about the boy child? Photo: Getty Images.

Dr Linda Ncube-Nkomo, the CEO of loveLife, shares how our boys feel they have nothing to lose and what interventions can help them.


The failure to pay adequate attention to the plight faced by the boy child has been a focus area for several years, not only here at home but across the world, where worrying harmful behavioural incidents continue.

These largely highlight how troubled the boy child is and the urgent help he needs across all spheres of his life from home, school, and society and his need for positive role models to whom he can look up to.

We often hear harrowing reports about the destructive anger and violence of South African boys and men. These stories make one wonder what the root cause of all this anger and toxic behaviour and little regard for the trail of pain and destruction could be that it leaves in its wake.

Read: Want to have a baby boy? This is what you need to know

How did we get to the point of dealing with a range of destructive behaviours from nyaope-driven petty crimes in our townships to perpetual men on men violence in Khayelitsha that has now been raging for weeks, leaving dozens of young and old males dead to gender-based violence and femicide where the disappearance of a woman or child leads almost always ends with them being found raped and dead?

The stories from substance abuse-related crime, domestic violence, gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) to emotional, financial, and verbal abuse are too frequently documented and discussed – and the blame is rightly placed on the shoulders of men and young men with the focus being on their actions and very little investigation of the root causes.

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How did we raise boys and men capable of committing such heinous crimes?

As David Robbins mentions in his book, Powering the Future: loveLife 2010-2019 and Beyond – there's a clear need to pay attention to school crime and violence where stabbings, bullying, threats and peer pressure are the norm.

Robbins goes on to quote from Eric Pelser's Learning to be Lost: Youth Crime in South Africa that "crime, and often a violent crime, is a primary means for many young South Africans to connect and bond with society, to acquire respect, status, and sexual partners, and to demonstrate achievement among their peers and in their communities."

Today as we commemorate the International Day of the Boy Child, a day whose recognition is advocated for by Dr Jerome Teelucksingh and supported by numerous South African organisations and institutions – we need to pause and ask ourselves honestly if we have invested enough in boys' well-being and their need to be valued by families and society and fed on a diet that does not include violence and toxicity.

The lethal cocktail of toxic masculinity, patriarchy, misogyny and the devastating effects of a violent apartheid system have caused intergenerational trauma that needs to be acknowledged and addressed intentionally.

There is no denying that despite twenty-eight years of constitutional democracy, there has been little healing from the pain caused by apartheid. There is no quick fix to the issue, but we need to start with interventions that can take us there.

Through the National Department of Social Development's Men championing change programme, the government focuses on boys and young men and has been doing so since 2018, when it was launched.

Must read: NGO empowers young boys to tackle gender-based violence in their communities

Several smaller organisations have recognised the crisis that boys are in and running programmes to tackle the issue, all of which must be applauded.

More hands and funds need to come on board if we are to make meaningful progress in turning the destructive tide of hopelessness, despair, and frustration that boys and young men are in the midst of.

The current emotional, economic, and societal challenges they face as they try to weave through daily life in SA are drivers of high-risk behaviours. They see themselves with no future and nothing to lose.

As we try to look for more solutions on how we get out of this crisis and encourage more South Africans to put more focus on the boy child, I wish to borrow from Robbins:

"It's a truism to say solutions always lie hidden inside the problems themselves. But to successfully unearth them, we need to delve deeper into the nature of the problem to uncover its extent and examine more closely the possible reasons for its particular characteristics."

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