Children need more male role models from ECE programs

by | Apr 13, 2017 | News

Aleisha Legair
News Reporter

There is a dire need for more men to get involved in Early Childhood Education, according to statistics and Humber College’s ECE program.

An event hosted at the North campus last Friday raised awareness of a huge disparity between male and female workers in the field, and called for more involvement from men.

A statistic from Childcare Canada reveals females outnumber men in the field by an almost 99 to 1 ratio. Women in ECE account for 98.6 per cent, while males only make up 1.4 per cent of workers in all of Canada.

This lack of male involvement in early childhood education is important to note because it has some serious adverse effects on the lives and futures of children, according to experts in the field.

Studies show positive male interactions in the daily lives of children generally lead to fewer behavioural problems, increased levels of sociability and better performance at school.

Humber ECE student Vincezo Giovannini, one of only three male students in the program, said the odds are pretty much against children without a positive male role model in their early lives.

“Children (without male guidance) are 10 times more likely to abuse drugs,” he said.

“They’re four times more likely to be raised in poverty, twice as likely to commit suicide and nine times more likely to drop out of high school,” he added.

He said the mission of the recruiting event held at North campus last week was an attempt to get more men involved in the field.

“If we can get more men in ECE, in daycares and in the school board, then…children (who) don’t have a strong male figure at home…can rely on the role models at school or at daycare, and if we can get to them at a young age, then hopefully we can stem the problem from there,” Giovannini said.

Shirwa Shuriye, another male student in the program, echoed the same damaging effects and said men generally shy away from that line of work because of the stigma attached to it.

“(Men) have to fight a stigmatism,” he said. “People don’t really trust men with children because of things they hear in the news. A man might be considered a pedophile just because he wants to work with kids,” he said.

Shuriye, who plans on becoming a teacher, thinks more men should ignore the stigma and focus on the bigger picture, which is to help children.

“At the end of the day, it’s really about the children. And what we’re trying to do is help the children develop properly, and to do that, they need males and females working together,” he said.

The other male student in the program, Ayub Touray, who was led into ECE because of his experience training kids in sports, said he was even warned from entering the program for fear he would be stigmatized.

“When I was first saying that I wanted to come into the ECE program, my mom was saying ‘be careful’ because many females feel like they can’t trust males with their children,” he said. “This idea is very common…in some centres they don’t even allow males to do diaper changes.”

But much like his other male counterparts in the program, Touray, who wants to stay in ECE and branch out, said it is time for men to shed the idea of the profession being a woman’s job, and focus on trying to help the younger generation.

“The ECE aspect of supporting a child in their cognitive, physical, communication, emotional, social, development (stages) is very important,” he said.

Giovannini, who wrote a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne to help raise awareness and fill the need for male involvement in ECE, said the benefits of helping a child far outweighs the fear behind it.

“When men are in the school boards and daycares, boys are 50 per cent more likely to approach a male about bullying,” he said.

“And they (boys) were 49 per cent more likely to approach them about their problems. So there is that positive outcome that we all have to look forward to,” Giovannini said.

He said he plans on working with disabled children after graduating.

The ECE department continues to improve its advocacy for males in the program by working with school guidance counselors to recommend suitable males, and encourage their participation in the program.