By Sonia Walker-Russell

With 65% of our students graduating with a D average and 20% of students leaving school totally illiterate,

Mr. Howard Betts, co-founder of the Centre for Leadership Studies at the University of Exeter, UK, wonders

if the millions of dollars being pumped into the Education System is seeing a return on such an investment.

"The social requirement to educate is being fulfilled but is the education system effective? The resounding

answer is no," he said during the Rotary Club of Freeport's recent weekly meeting.

Presently assisting young men in Nassau with illiteracy issues, Mr. Betts told Rotarians that in our society

there are too many 'failing boys', but it is not the educational system that needs to change.


One in five of students graduate totally illiterate and of that ratio, most are boys, he said, as girls tend to

succeed in school. "Many of you here are businessmen ... are you going to employ these young men who do

not possess the basic skills required? For what can they do to contribute to the modern world?"

One reason for so many failing boys, he said, is the lack of leadership because of high amounts of

fatherlessness (meaning no constant father at home or present) and the lack of positive male role models


"What is one of the great roles of leadership? A father - acting as a role model, example and spending time

with children. In the UK there is one of the highest fatherless rates in the world and among afro-Americans in

the U.S., the fatherless capital of the world, the fatherless rate is 70%. In The Bahamas it has been said that

approximately 60% of children are fatherless."

He mentioned that international statistics have also revealed that the amount of quality, one on one time a

father spends with his son is 30 minutes in a week. Meanwhile these young males spend 44 hours watching

TV and playing video games.

"The majority of what boys need from a role model they cannot get as so many come from fatherless

households and even in the school environment most of the teachers and about 50% of the class are females.

What, then, can one do about this? We need to think about what can be done," said Mr. Betts.

Bearing these things in mind he and his team went into schools and took boys out of the classroom, (in

agreement with the school), who couldn't read, write or communicate properly. "For until they could read and

write, trying to teach them any other subject was a waste of time. It has (even) been suggested in other

countries that some schools have no other program than that since you can't even learn numeracy unless you

can read and write."

These young men were put through a six week program which included literacy programs and sports


"We allowed the boys to create games and their own rules because to do this you must know how to read. So

it created a desire to learn to read. However you don't need teachers or to change the education system to do

any of this."

Students who were a part of the program, who were found to be reading two years lower than their reading

age, increased their reading ability by six months.

Mr. Betts said that he and his team also went out and found young men of similar backgrounds who could

read and write and were doing other interesting things to give the boys role models.

"If you look at athletes and sportsman they possess two or three key attitudes that are very important for

young people - self discipline, self-confidence and self-resilience. Boys need self-resilience because they do

not like to fail. When they are in an environment of failure they goof off, rebel and blame others.

Mr. Betts advises that this kind of work with young boys, begin before the age of seven by which time

psychologists have said the predominant learning patterns have been formed.

"If you start whipping out books of literacy with 12 and 13 year old boys you're wasting your time. In terms

of mentoring, it can work, but the older you get them you experience a fair amount of abuse," he said.

"I am trying to bring my knowledge to wake The Bahamas to the fact that if we do not start to do something

now with the level of problems with boys, you will face longer term problems that could be quite catastrophic,

especially if the Government puts in a welfare system." This could lead to a lot of problems as in the UK, it

has been recorded where three generations of a family were all on welfare, and though they are happy to live

off of this money their main income comes from illicit means.

Young women, without help from 'baby daddy', end up on welfare, he noted, and young failing men end up

obtaining their income by unsavory means. Both cost the tax payer countless amounts of money. "To keep a

person in prison," he mentioned as an example, "costs the country $60,000 a year. Unfortunately these costs

never go down.

"We must do something

now, no matter the cultural