Nurturing Positive Masculinity in a World of ‘Lost Boys’ By Michelle Jones

With a proud 120-year legacy of ‘knowing boys’ behind us, Highbury continues to strive to serve our boys by providing a family-based context that nurtures them holistically, with the aim of empowering them to become men who are able to lead the way into our fast-paced, ever-changing future.

A fundamental component of becoming a man is coming to understand the concept of ‘masculinity’, what it represents and how it is perceived in our society.  In our modern milieu, the very concept itself has been brought into question and our generation of boys can easily come to feel ‘lost’ in the process of identity formation. In an issue of Psychology Today, psychologist Mickey A Feher, succinctly addresses the dichotomy, saying ‘…as longstanding cultural structures and stereotypes are being reevaluated, masculinity and manhood are in crisis. The old masculine stereotypes of being aggressive, privileged, and tough, while also being hypersexual and unemotional, are being dismantled. At the same time, we are also seeing these old stereotypes being re-embraced around the world.’

With this in mind, schools surely have an unspoken responsibility to crystallise their views on what modern masculinity looks like in order to create an empowering context conducive to well-balanced socio-emotional development in their boys. Highbury identified this ‘crisis of masculinity’ as an area of focus in 2021/2. As such, several Highbury teachers were privileged to attend the International Boys Coalition Conference, where ‘masculinity’ was presented as a key theme. Other staff members were afforded the privilege of receiving training by the charismatic Craig Wilkinson on his ‘6 Pack of Champion Virtues of Masculinity’. Craig Wilkinson is top selling South African author, award-winning social entrepreneur, inspirational speaker and self-proclaimed ‘Dad Coach’. In his introduction on his ‘Father A Nation’ webpage, Craig Wilkinson states:  ‘At his core, every man wants to be a good man. But not every man knows how. There is a lot of confusion in the world today about what it means to be a man. There is also a lot of negativity about masculinity. Men often feel as though they need to justify themselves, as if being a man is a bad thing and masculinity is something to be ashamed of. The opposite is true! Authentic masculinity is a great gift to the world. Men are made to be a powerful force for good. And you can be such a man.’ (

At Highbury, we firmly believe that our boys will be those men.  In fact, the Highbury ‘Culture of Honour’ derived from the works of Stephen Covey reflects this belief and comprises 18 core values that are held as imperatives to raising boys who will become great men. These values are spoken into the lives of our boys on a daily basis, through our powerful Christian ethos and hidden curriculum.  This very same ‘Culture of Honour’ dovetails beautifully with the works of Craig Wilkinson, as values such as ‘service’, ‘trust’, ‘love’, ‘empathy’, ‘respect’, ‘responsibility’ and ‘courage’ underpin the ‘Champion Virtues’ presented in Wilksinson’s campaign.

Highbury boys are privileged to begin their journeys of finding their lights, knowing themselves and becoming the heroes of their own stories from a young age. A significant part of this journey for each boy is coming to understand his own authentic, positive masculinity and how he can harness his own power to incite change and do good in the world. It is helpful to view this journey through the lens of positive masculinity, and Wilkison’s  ‘6 Pack of Champion Virtues of Masculinity’ provides a useful paradigm. Each of these virtues is summarised below:

  1. ‘Champion Men Use Their Strength Well’ – authentic men possess an internal compass that guides them to use their strength for good and with love, in the protection of others. Values that would underpin this virtue would include compassion, trust, service, confidence, empathy, respect and responsibility.
  2. ‘Champion Men Tend Their Fields’ – Wilkinson describes four elements of care in his metaphor of men ‘tending their fields’, which include taking care of and respecting themselves and others, being responsible for the material aspects of their lives and ensuring that they understand and fulfil their roles and responsibilities. A number of the values held within the Highbury Culture of Honour support the intention and action involved in the care of self, others and the environment.
  3. ‘Champion Men Define Themselves by Character’ –  the central tenet of ‘character’ is key to being authentic in your interactions with the world by remaining true to yourself, despite external influences. Wilkinson also addresses the concept of being brave enough to show vulnerability as a man rather than trying to hide one’s personal difficulties in an attempt to wear the ‘big boys don’t cry’ mask. Being a man of character requires deep-rooted values of honesty and responsibility.
  4. ‘Champion Men Build a Band of Brothers’ – Wilkinson states that ‘champion men embrace brotherhood and build strong, healthy, accountable relationships with other men.’ By actively nurturing a support system of like-minded men, future generations can grow based on a shared understanding of vulnerability. The South African concept of ‘ubuntu’ can play an influential role in building a society based on honour, trust, service and love.
  5. ‘Champion Men Mentor the Next Generation’ – mentorship is foundational in nurturing generations with a solid sense of authentic masculinity.  Wilkinson urges men to ‘be someone worth looking up to’. Highbury’s Culture of Honour aims to nurture future leaders through peer and teacher mentorship that is deeply embedded in the hidden curriculum.
  6. ‘Champion Men Make the World a Better Place’ – Wilkinson encourages men to ‘give more than you take’ while living ‘your purpose’. In line with our motto ‘Jamais Arriere’, meaning ‘never behind’, part of the journey into manhood is ensuring that the footprints that our boys leave behind are a testament to their honourable way of life, in how they treat others and how they interact with the world around them.  Leaving the world a better place requires courage, faith, confidence, belief and perseverance.

By consciously nurturing a sense of positive masculinity consistent with a Culture of Honour, Highbury boys will not be lost to the winds of change in the world, as they are anchored in a deeply rooted culture of faith and honour.

What does it mean to be a man in a modern world? Wilkinson astutely answers this vital question: ‘It’s not taking, it’s giving. Not dominating, it’s serving. Choosing love over power’.

What a privilege it is for South African schools to play a fundamental role in nurturing the next generation of authentic, responsible men. For Highbury, ‘knowing boys’ is core to raising gentlemen who, at heart, are good human beings, who live and lead through giving, serving and loving those around them.

‘Father a Nation’ website: