10 facts about life expectancy in Jamaica
The island country of Jamaica, in the Caribbean Sea, is making improvements in its public health care systems to increase life expectancy. Once ran by an unstable and politically corrupt government, Jamaica handed the keys to Sir Patrick Allen in 2016. Under a new regime, the government promises to take public health care more seriously. “The government is committed to working assiduously during the first year of administration to tackle these issues,” said Allen in an interview.

The administration is shifting its focus to partnership and community mobilization to protect the health of Jamaicans. The country has implemented a new 10-year plan focusing on expanding health care access through infrastructure development. The new motto of building a partnership for prosperity has influenced positive change, but many Jamaicans still struggle or are unable to attain proper health care. The expenses have put many families in a state of poverty. Rural areas will have unequal access to incoming health care benefits. Keep reading to learn the top 10 facts about life expectancy in Jamaica.

Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Jamaica

  1. According to the CIA World Factbook, Jamaicans’ life expectancy rate from birth is currently 74.5 years, ranking the country 123rd in the world. Males live an average of 72.7 years while females live an average of 76.5 years. Overall, life expectancy has risen since the turn of the century. In 1960, the life expectancy rate from birth was only 64 years which means there was a 10-year increase as of 2019.
  2. Improvements in public health care and life expectancy have led to a decrease in infant mortality rates. In the year 2000, 14.6 infants died per 1,000 births. In 2019, 11.6 infants have died per 1,000 births. The decline is about three children in the last 19 years and is still decreasing.
  3. Enhancements in clean drinking water have also led to increased life expectancy in Jamaica. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, access to sanitary water has improved 97.5 percent for urban populations and 89.4 percent for rural populations. This leaves just 2.5 percent of the urban and 10.6 percent of the rural populations needing improvements in water.
  4. The HIV and AIDS epidemic has also seen a decrease in cases, leading to improved life expectancy. The virus has affected the entire Caribbean for many years, but health improvements lowered the number of cases each year. As of 2017, only 1.8 percent of the island of Jamaica has contracted the HIV virus with 1,500 deaths. This is a decrease from 56 percent in 2004.
  5. In 2016, Jamaica became the latest Caribbean country to have the Zika virus. Mosquito bites transmit the virus and it can pass from person to person through sex, blood transfusions or pregnancies. The government has lowered the number of cases as of 2019 but is also putting together a precautionary plan for citizens and travelers including what kind of repellents to use, places to avoid and how to protect children.
  6. Prosperity through partnership, mobilization and urbanization is the goal of the 2016 Jamaica government. Within two years, the government has brought urbanization to 55.7 percent, averaging a 0.82 percent rate of change each year. This is an encouraging number, but one that Sir Patrick Allen will look to increase in order to urbanize at a more rapid pace.
  7. Environmental issues within the country have halted some improvements. Hurricanes frequently hit the island, especially between July and December. Heavy rates of deforestation, water pollution by industrial waste, oil spills, land erosion, damage to coral reefs and air pollution are all pressing issues that influence mortality. The government has prioritized these issues through plans to expand partnerships with richer countries, hoping they will provide relief to damaged parts of Jamaica.
  8. Education has increased rapidly in Jamaica, providing children the opportunity to grow into productive members of society, which increases their life expectancy. More children are starting school between the ages of two and three. The country provides preschool, primary school and high school, and offers further educational choices. With improvements in education, the literacy rate of Jamaica has climbed to an astonishing 89 percent overall.
  9. The World Food Program has been working diligently in Jamaica to improve nourishment. Thanks to its efforts, obesity in the country dropped to under 20 percent in 2018. This is a significant improvement from the 5 percent decrease in 2016. Only 2.2 percent of children under the age of 5 are underweight.
  10. Sanitation facilities have seen a rapid improvement. In 79.9 percent of urban areas and 84.1 percent of rural areas, the country has made sanitation improvements to schools, hospitals, houses, parks and local bathrooms. A total of 18.2 percent of the area still needs improvement in those areas to aid life expectancy.

The upcoming years will continue to be of high importance for the new government, but Jamaica has much to celebrate. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Jamaica show that the country has made improvements to increase life expectancy. It still requires more work, especially as it continues to implement its 10-year program.

– Aaron Templin
Photo: Pixabay

youth unemployment in jamaica

Jamaica has one of the highest rates of youth unemployment in Latin America and the Caribbean, with 21.8 percent of youths unemployed as of January 2019. However, this rate represents a significant improvement after reaching a high of 37.5 percent in 2013. The World Bank and the Government of Jamaica are working to continue this progress in reducing youth unemployment in Jamaica by creating and supporting programs designed to increase opportunities for young Jamaicans.

Trends in Unemployment

Recent research has revealed that there is an even greater disparity when comparing young women and young men. In January 2019, the unemployment rate was 17.9 percent for young men and 26.5 percent for young women. The recent progress in reducing youth unemployment in Jamaica is still remarkable and has been highlighted by many, including Kemesha Kelly, a youth advocate and lecturer at The University of the West Indies, Mona

Kelly has stated that “everyone must participate in the progress. Putting job creation at the heart of economic policymaking and development plans will not only generate decent work opportunities, but also more robust, inclusive and poverty-reducing growth. It is a virtuous circle that is as good for the economy as it is for the people, and one which will lead to sustainable development.”

The Government of Jamaica seems committed to the work Kelly described, as Jamaica’s Minister of Education has proudly noted the progress that has been made and expressed a determination to keep this momentum going and reduce the rate even further in the coming years.

Government Initiatives

As a part of this commitment, the Ministry of Education hosted a youth career week in 2018, highlighting career and skill-training opportunities for young Jamaicans. This included a youth forum, an expo with displays on career paths, and a National Skills Competition for students in secondary and primary schools. Beyond this, the government is also working to strengthen the apprenticeship program to increase opportunities for young people and decrease youth unemployment in Jamaica.

Jamaica is using the Australian system as a potential model, which requires youth to go through an apprenticeship program in order to enter the formal economy. While Jamaica’s government has not noted any plans to make apprenticeship mandatory, they want to increase its availability and popularity among youth, developing it within the Jamaican context.

In addition to apprenticeships, the Director-General of the Planning Institute of Jamaica, Wayne Henry, also stated the need to ensure the programs offered at educational institutions could directly lead to meaningful employment. Specifically, programs in emerging fields, including robotics, criminology, entrepreneurship, engineering and mechanics, should be more widely offered.

This focus on apprenticeship has been in the works since 2017 and may be one of the reasons for the improvements to youth unemployment rates. In February 2014, a forum was hosted to discuss the goal of increased apprenticeship and open a dialogue between the government and the private sector.

World Bank Program

In 2014, the World Bank began its Sustainable Youth Employment in Digital and Animation Industries Project for Jamaica. The project has been working to help youth become more employable and will remain active until January 2020. This is a growing industry that significantly benefits from having young tech entrepreneurs who can bring new, innovative ideas. The project focuses on helping youth develop the critical thinking skills needed for entrepreneurship in this field, connecting youth entrepreneurs to each other and to industry leaders.

Moving Forward

Jamaica is not alone in facing the struggle of high youth unemployment, as the Latin American and the Caribbean regions have the third-highest youth unemployment rate in the world. If these efforts to reduce youth unemployment in Jamaica continue to be successful, other countries in the Caribbean and Latin America may be able to model their own initiatives off of Jamaica’s, learning how to focus on increasing youth employment as a way to improve livelihoods and the overall economy.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

quiz show in Jamaica
Students from 64 different high schools across Jamaica spend all year studying song lyrics, historical figures and other trivia facts as they gear up to compete in the annual Schools’ Challenge Quiz (SCQ). It is a quiz show in Jamaica that has become a nationwide television phenomenon.

Winners of the quiz show receive an award of thousands of dollars in college scholarships, giving them the opportunity to go to college. This year, St. Jago High School emerged victorious against the 11-time quiz champion, Kingston College.

Chanarie Lindsay, Leory Cassanova, Abigail Barnes and Joel Henriques represented St. Jago High School. This was St. Jago’s fifth year winning the SCQ and Abigail Barnes was the first girl to win the competition.

Crime & Gang Violence in Spanish Town, Jamaica

St. Jago High School is located in Spanish Town, St. Catherine, Jamaica. Many know Spanish Town for its high crime rates and prevalent gang activity. Spanish Town has one of the highest crime rates in Jamaica and incoming travelers should avoid it. In January 2018, the Jamaican government declared a State of Emergency in Kingston Metropolitan Area and also warned visitors to avoid Montego Bay and Spanish Town due to violent crime and gang activity.

Schools in Jamaica are prime recruiting grounds for gangs. Gang involvement within the youth in Jamaica is prevalent, especially in inner-city schools such as St. Jago. Youth are also at risk of becoming homicide victims. In 2013, 79 percent of all homicides were due to gangs, 97.3 percent of people that received arrest for murder were males, 84.8 percent of these suspects were age 35 or younger and more than 51 percent of victims were 35 and younger.

Team building and educational activities are the key deterrents from violence in this area, and the SCQ has promoted a positive, educational alternative to gang involvement for St. Jago students. Students often stay at school after class to practice for the quiz, preventing them from encountering gang affiliates on the streets after school. Furthermore, the SCQ team in St. Jago has formed a community among the students that many young individuals lack in impoverished communities.

Education in Jamaica

Though primary and secondary education has been increasingly accessible after major education reform in Jamaica, academic achievement has remained relatively low. In 2009, more than 24 percent of students entering primary school did not master any national assessments. Recently, Jamaica ranked 54th out of 149 countries in education, according to the Legatum Prosperity Index, which assesses countries based on access to education, quality of education and human capital. Furthermore, tertiary education in Jamaica is rare. In 2017, the college graduation rate was 6.2 percent despite a 79.7 percent high school graduation rate.

The effort and hard work students put in every day to win the SCQ competition can foster academic achievement, and winning the quiz show in Jamaica provides high school students a chance to pursue higher education.

Improving Youth Engagement in Jamaica

Many young Jamaicans are out of school because either they cannot afford to pay for school fees and supplies or they do not have any access to education. In 2017, 27,535 adolescents were out of school, and gross enrollment rates have declined from 91.62 percent in 2011 to 82.37 percent in 2017. These young individuals do not have the privilege to go to high school or pursue higher education, therefore, they are less likely to find jobs.

To alleviate this issue, the International Youth Foundation (IYF) launched the Caribbean Youth Empowerment Program (CYEP) initiative. The CYEP is a youth empowerment program in Jamaica that focusses on training young individuals in technical, vocational, entrepreneurship and life skills. So far, more than 490 companies have offered graduating students opportunities, like mentoring and internships and 94 percent of companies have hired interns and employees after receiving reports of satisfaction from CYEP.

Television Jamaica

In addition to the quiz show in Jamaica, Television Jamaica—a major television network and the host of the SCQ— is offering one SCQ participant $500,000 each year to fund his or her tertiary education and a three-week internship at TVJ. To be eligible for this scholarship, an SCQ participant must fill out an application, write a 700-word essay, maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 and have two teacher endorsements.

After 50 years of the SCQ, it has remained the most popular TV show in Jamaica and has been integrated into its culture. The country celebrates quiz alumni. The SCQ is a medium for Jamaica’s entertainment and educational success. It has created a platform for students across the country to exercise their team-building skills, dedication and sportsmanship, as well as show off their school pride.

Louise Macaraniag
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Sustainable Energy In Jamaica
In 2013, the Prime Minister of Jamaica made an announcement that would change the future of the tropical island nation. He and his government declared that, by the year 2030, the Island nation of Jamaica would produce 30 percent of its power from renewable sources. At the time, this was an important stride for not only the worldwide movement towards greener and cleaner energy but also an important step for the national security of Jamaica. At the time the Prime Minister made this announcement, 90 percent of Jamaica’s energy needs were imported. As of 2018, sustainable energy in Jamaica was on-track to becoming a reality.

The majority of the oil used by the country was imported from Venezuela. Not only does Jamaica’s carbon footprint put it in danger but its reliance on a foreign energy source also has the potential to give the providing country sway over the domestic affairs of Jamaica, especially when 9 percent of its total GDP is spent on imported petroleum for the energy sector.

Solar Power

The government is determined to set an example for its people to follow. In 2018, the Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness unveiled the finished project that the government and the non-profit organization, Solar Head of State, had been working on. It was a conversion of the Prime Minster’s office to solar power. On this same day, Prime Minister Holness also announced that he believed Jamaica could surpass their 30 percent sustainable energy goal and aim for a 50 percent energy goal. Only eight other nation-states in the world are aiming higher than Jamaica for their sustainable energy targets.

This public example of green power positivity can be seen in the Jamaican classroom as well. At Hampton school, an all-girls school, nearly a quarter of the budget goes towards the energy bill. So, the headmistress takes the time to educate her young women about the importance of sustainable energy by replacing the lightbulbs in the school with energy-saving LEDs.

Wind Power

Wind is another source of income and power for sustainable energy in Jamaica. South of the Hampton school, 11 wind turbines can be seen. These are only a small portion of a larger project headed by BMR Jamaica Wind Limited. The United States and Canada are also sending financial aid through respective government institutions. By the end of the project, the turbines are expected to provide power for 15,000 people and reduce carbon emissions to the equivalent of removing 13,000 cars off of the road.

There is money in sustainable energy in Jamaica. The Jamaican government is willing to work with investors and companies in the private sector to help reduce their reliance on non-renewable sources. David Delaire, managing director of the German firm MPC Captial, said that the reason for the fast growth of the sustainable energy market in Jamaica is due in part to its location, stable market and a robust regulatory framework.

Nicholas Anthony DeMarco
Photo: Unsplash

PA 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Jamaica
The home of Bob Marley and reggae music hosts many tourists each year in its breezy Caribbean, yet not all are aware of the living conditions of Jamaican people beyond the tourist resort walls. Growth and progress are reflected through the development and strides various organizations provide in cooperation with the locals to transform this island nation. In the text below, some facts to know about how each advancement rejuvenates living conditions in Jamaica are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Jamaica

  1. There are 2.89 million people recorded living in Jamaica with around 25 percent of people living in Kingston, the island nation’s capital. This affects living conditions in Jamaica in a big way due to the congestion in the capital.
  2. The World Bank reports that Jamaica’s poverty rate declined from 21.1 percent in 2015 to 17.1 percent in 2016 and is projected to continue to decline up until 2020. Jamaica’s government created a reform program that gained national and international support. Through such support, in 2013 the World Bank provided more than $500 million for development policy and investment financing for private sector growth, transformation and building resilience for the climate and social status.
  3. Due to Jamaica’s freedom of the press, their broadcast media are typically commercial and can carry diverse comment. This provides Jamaicans with a variety of news to reach their locals. Reporters Without Borders rank this island nation in the top 10 nations regarding the World Press Freedom Index.
  4. Jamaica has been a nation with free health care since April 2008. Since then, patients at public hospitals and health centers have benefited from several health services free of cost regardless of their living conditions in Jamaica. Records show that more than 422,000 persons have benefited from the services at public health facilities such as appointments and hospital stay.
  5. Total employment throughout Jamaica increased and unemployment fell from 12.2 percent in April 2017 to 9.7 percent in April 2018. The government had a role in this success. The Ministry of Finance reported that they put an emphasis on the training required for skilled labor so that they could increase the level of high-paying jobs and employment. Further, youth unemployment also fell by 3.2 percent, hitting its lowest rate since 2007.
  6. As of January 2019, employees in Kingston make an average salary of $19,864 per year. The living conditions in Jamaica are affordable whether people rent or purchase a home with a one-bedroom rental going for $360 per month and purchasing a home is on average less than $75,000. Most Jamaicans do not spend a lot of utilities because the cost of kitchen appliances on the island is expensive. Groceries are inexpensive in the area and dining out to eat is on average $40.
  7. The curriculums for primary and secondary education in Jamaica mimic the curriculums in the U.K. Secondary school consists of two stages. The first stage consists of grades from seven to nine, and the second stage of grades 10 and 11. NAFSA reports that upon completion of grade 11, students take the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC), with subjects administered by the Caribbean Examinations Councils (CXC).
  8. The World Bank reported imported fossil fuels provided 90 percent of Jamaica’s energy needs in the past. Currently, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) supports BMR Energy, creator of BMR Jamaica Wind Project. It is the largest private-sector renewable energy project in Jamaica. Since BMR Energy reported taking ownership and operation of the 36-megawatt wind farm, Jamaica set goals to generate 30 percent of its energy from local renewable sources to reduce greenhouse gases by 2030.
  9. The government issued several states of emergencies throughout 2018 that led the military and police to now engage in joint security operations. These include checkpoints and curfews to extinguish the violence and restore order. To record, World Nomads reported that the island is littered with gang violence and drug exportation that affect citizens because it interrupts commerce and daily life routines.
  10. According to the latest WHO data published in 2018, life expectancy in Jamaica is 73.6 years for males and 78.5 years for females. That said, the total life expectancy is 76 years, which ranks Jamaica on 59th place on World Life Expectancy. In addition, the possibility of child deaths under the age of five in 2017 was typically 15 to every 1,000 newborn babies.

The improvement of living conditions in Jamaica is developing daily. Even though health care is free in Jamaica, there is still work to be done to make the health centers more accessible. Nevertheless, the employment rate in Jamaica is on the climb for both youth and adults. The literacy rate among the youth in primary and secondary education is a prevalent component to the jobs they seek after they graduate. Since transitioning to renewable energy, the island nation is on its way to further improve the living conditions for its citizens.

– Carolina Chaves

Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Agriculture in Jamaica
Sustainable agriculture in Jamaica is a practice that the country is committed to improving. The country’s vulnerability to extreme weather emphasizes the importance of smart agricultural practices.

Long-Term Strategies

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has implemented strategies to ensure the sustainability of the agricultural sector. Portfolio Minister, Derrick Kellier, made a speech in preparation of the Vision 2030 Medium Term Policy. He said these strategies will contribute to the country’s GDP, and fulfill the mission statement “to advance the development of a modern, efficient and internationally competitive agricultural sector, and the sustainable management of our fishery resources, in order to promote food security and food safety in an effort to contribute to the development and well-being of our people.”

The strategies include the:

  • establishment of nine agro-parks;
  • farm road rehabilitation plan through the sugar transformation program;
  • implementation of an aquaculture development plan;
  • completion of the European Union Banana Support Program;
  • promotion and use of the farmer field school methodology in extension services;
  • training in proper land husbandry techniques; and
  • building climate resilience of the agricultural sector through the provision of water harvesting and irrigation infrastructure.

The Jamaican Sustainable Farm Enterprise Program

Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA) established the Jamaican Sustainable Farm Enterprise Program in 2014 to help the agriculture industry in Jamaica. The goal of the program is to assist the building of local, ecologically based, disaster resistant organic food systems through technology transfer and management expertise that links farmers to markets. Additionally, the initiative aims to develop market-driven organic value chain production, certification and distribution systems for agricultural products that will sustainably reduce food insecurity and poverty.

The program also assists smallholder farmers through technical training covering three areas:

  1. Improving agricultural and agribusiness operations, inputs, organic agricultural extension, marketing and innovative farm credit approaches.
  2. Supporting Jamaican local food security and resiliency projects by providing rural and urban educational programs and technical support in organic farming and gardening, community gardening and Permaculture land management practices.
  3. As the southeastern U.S. shares similar climate conditions with the Carribean, the program will source volunteers by tapping into these successful organic and Permaculture communities, fostering a strong cultural and economic links between these two regions. Indeed, the Caribbean is prone to disaster at a much more common rate because of its geographical location located in the harsh waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Over the past 60 years, the Caribbean countries have suffered over 180 natural disasters, primarily hurricanes and floods. Jamaica has one of the highest rates of hurricanes out of all of the Caribbean Islands, with over a 10 percent chance for a hurricane to strike annually.

Collaboration Fosters Growth

The vulnerability to natural disasters makes it crucial for farmers to be monitored and to work together. A program that has helped agriculture, as well as the safety of farming groups is the Jamaica Organic Agriculture Movement (JOAM). The initiative has untied 10 coffee farmers in Jamaica, with a combined land total of over 200 acres. The advantages of the program include joint marketing efforts, pooling resources and sharing solutions for agricultural production.

Sustainable agriculture in Jamaica has aided the industry of farming. Organizational efforts to improve the sector, despite the vulnerabilities the country faces, must continue in order for Jamaica to flourish.

Casey Geier
Photo: Pixabay

Top 10 Fact About Girls’ Education in Jamaica
Jamaica has a history, like many countries in the world, of oppressing women. One major issue of gender equality involves access to adequate education. Girls’ education in this country was only recently established, especially compared to boys’ education, but focus on closing this gender gap creates improvements. In the text below, top 10 facts about girls’ education in Jamaica are presented.

Top 10 Fact About Girls’ Education in Jamaica

  1. Girls’ education in Jamaica only involved home economics and some other basic classes up until around 1944. With the implementation of The Kandel Report and the associated Plan for Post-Primary Education, universal literary core for both boys and girls was established.
  2. Today, women are dominating school enrollment, closing the gender gap in education. According to a News America Now article, out of the total population of 2.7 in Jamaica, around 40 percent of women go into tertiary education. That’s 2.29 times more than the number of men going to universities and colleges.
  3. According to the Jamaica Observer, despite the non-existent gender gap in education and the fact the women are more educated than men in Jamaica, women still earn much less in the workforce.
  4. Women are more likely to do unpaid household labor, have less say in decision-making, and less access to resources. This fact is reflected in a 2017 study that found that women’s income in Jamaica is 39 percent lower than men’s.
  5. Further globalization can help close this gender disparity in income among educated men and women by connecting women to more business and economic opportunities.
  6. Apart from gender parity education enrollment, a pressing issue for girls’ education in Jamaica revolves around teenage pregnancy, mostly due to poverty, limited reproductive health care and sexual abuse. According to Brookings, Jamaica’s teen pregnancy rate is higher than the global average, with 59 out of 1,000 adolescent girls becoming pregnant.
  7. The education policy states that pregnant teens must be dismissed from school until they are allowed to re-enroll once they have the baby. This deprives teen mothers of the education they need and often discourages them to go back.
  8. In an attempt to establish inclusive education for all, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information implemented the National Policy for the Reintegration of School-Age Mothers into the Formal School System in 2013. The policy was a significant step toward ensuring that young mothers return to school and complete an education, thus improving their chances to provide for themselves and their children.
  9. Upon returning to school, there is often a huge lack of support and counseling for teenage mothers. The policy must focus on more care for mothers returning to school to improve enrollment rates and prevent discrimination that diverts many teen mothers from returning to school.
  10. The Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation works to ensure that teen mothers return to school by providing counseling, maternal support, skills training for those unable to return to school, and early interventions providing resources to prevent early unwanted pregnancies.

These top 10 facts about girls’ education in Jamaica can help communities improve gender equality even further. The education system for girls has come a long way, but there are still many ways to improve teen mothers access to education and closing the gender gap within jobs after school.

With programs such as The Ministry of Education and The Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation, more girls are able to gain access to quality education. Integrating more globalization and evaluating women’s income will also help Jamaica reach gender equality in the education-career aspect, as these top 10 facts about girls’ education in Jamaica show.

– Anna Power
Photo: Pixabay

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Jamaica
Jamaica, the fourth largest island country in the Caribbean, is hungry. The root of hunger is based on inequality and racism. Grassroots projects and programs are developed to alleviate an empty tummy. Here are the top 10 facts about hunger in Jamaica:

  1. Jamaica is highly focused on the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDG), especially the ones that address the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger across the globe. After the devastating global recession, Jamaica is keen that their strategies for poverty reduction are financially supported.
  2. Jamaica is not all poverty yet lines of marginalization are obvious. Not far from the country’s wealthy communities live the Jamaicans that have limited access to clean water, food supply, health care and education.
  3. Hunger in Jamaica is largely a reflection of racial inequality. With a heritage rooted in slavery, descendants of black slaves hold a much larger probability of residing amongst the poorest classes of Jamaica. Meanwhile, descendants of the white race and mixed-race plantation owners tend to be much better off.
  4. Most Jamaicans in poverty spend more than half of their income on food. Due to Jamaica’s extreme inflation and reliance on imports, hunger in Jamaica is greatly exacerbated. Despite governmental food subsidy programs, Jamaica’s poor have to spend a large portion of their small incomes on the basics just to survive.
  5. The main cause of nutritional problems in Jamaica still appears to be the lack of economic access to food. With almost 20 percent of the national population living below the poverty line (and many additionally living in rural lands, an unfortunate compounding factor), access to socio-economic infrastructures is nearly impossible.
  6. The rural land doesn’t encapsulate all of Jamaica’s poverty, as high levels of malnutrition in the cities have been observed as well. The urban sectors exemplify an unfortunately high level of unemployment and a decreasing percentage of mothers that are breastfeeding their newborns, ultimately depriving young children of essential nutrients.
  7. Teachers and school staff in Jamaica see hunger as a painful challenge in the everyday lives of students. Inattentive, moody and exhibiting behavioral problems, hungry children struggle to reap the benefits of their education due to malnutrition.
  8. Food For The Poor, a charity organization, is spearheading self-sustaining agriculture projects at schools in order to provide healthy foods for daily meals and combat hunger in Jamaica. At-risk students gain hands-on experience in agriculture and learn methods of self-sustainability. School staff notes that the rate of student attendance has greatly improved as a result of these projects.
  9. The National Infant and Young Child Feeding Policy is an advancement introduced to reduce rates of morbidity and mortality among children. In a nutshell, the policy advocates for the promotion of both breastfeeding and adequate weaning practices. From ages six months to two years old, the policy seeks to encourage breastfeeding and, subsequently, adequate solid foods. According to both the WHO and UNICEF, the mental development of children who are exclusively breastfed is better than those who are not.
  10. Executed by an NGO, The Roving Caregivers Programme (RCP) focuses on providing child-rearing knowledge and practices to parents of children younger than four. Through home visits with trained personnel, families are given ideas for income-generating activities and are provided a heavy focus on the health and nutrition of the children.

The above-mentioned facts about hunger in Jamaica reflect the need for a global shift in the widening gap of global income inequality. To be hungry and experience malnutrition is largely a result of lacking an adequate income to feed a household as well as little to no access to healthy and nourishing foods. Luckily, the presence of grassroots programs and education are turning the tides and allowing for a self-sustainable community, and these facts are just the beginning of instilling awareness among the masses.

– Mary Grace Miller
Photo: Pixabay

Corruption in Jamaica
Jamaica has improved 15 spots in the world corruption rankings, now ranking as the 68th least corrupt country out of the 180 polled. Despite this progress, corruption in Jamaica remains entrenched and widespread, and its effects still drive poverty and crime in what is one of the poorest and most dangerous countries in the Americas.

According to Transparency International’s 2017 Index, Jamaica received a score of 44, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean. Although the jump in rankings is a positive sign, a score of 44 is still worrisome. The organization notes that any score under 50 indicates “prevalent bribery, a lack of punishment for corruption, and public institutions that do not respond to the needs of citizens.”

Also disheartening is the view Jamaicans themselves have on corruption within their country. According to the 2017 Global Corruption Barometer, which measures respondents’ perception of corruption within their own country, 51 percent of Jamaicans believed that most or all of the police were corrupt, with a further 37 percent believing that most (or all) of their representatives in Parliament were corrupt.

Corruption Costs

Both real and perceived corruption has far-reaching consequences for poverty, especially in developing countries. In Jamaica, where social infrastructure is already lacking, corruption diminishes quality of life by redirecting vital funding away from critical infrastructure such as healthcare, education, water, roads and electricity.

The money instead goes into private pockets, which results in an underfunded and underperforming government. This type of leadership then inadequately provides protection, jobs and basic services to its citizens.

Equally important are the effects of perceived corruption in Jamaica, where 68 percent of people believe corruption is increasing. This perception of a corrupt government is detrimental in that it discourages participation within the legal framework of society.

In the midst of an unfair system and a government which does not provide basic services for its people, many turn to extralegal groups for protection and livelihood. The result of such decisions are the high levels of murder and organized crime seen in Jamaica today.

Corruption and Poverty

Aside from the effects of corruption on the everyday life of Jamaicans, corruption also affects the economy as a whole. There is a universal trend of reduced foreign investment, lack of development and inefficient allocation of resources in corrupt nations.

The World Bank also notes that “the average income in countries with a high level of corruption is about a third of that of countries with a low level of corruption.” In Jamaica, this means corruption categorically lowers the quality of life for the vast majority of Jamaicans.

Positive Signs

Despite endemic corruption’s continued presence, there are indications that Jamaica is heading in the right direction. According to Transparency International, corruption in Jamaica has been decreasing, evidenced by its improved rank in the global corruption indexes.

Additionally, Jamaican leadership has begun to take an interest in anti-corruption, and has acknowledged that sustained economic growth is impossible without combating corruption. The Integrity Commission Bill in July 2017, passed by the Jamaican Senate, was an important step in the right direction. The act set in motion the establishment of an independent anti corruption unit tasked with uncovering and prosecuting corruption in Jamaica.

What Can Be Done

In its recommendations on curbing corruption, Transparency International notes five important areas in which the Jamaican government can improve:

  1. Encouraging free speech and an independent media.
  2. Minimizing regulations on media and ensuring journalists can work without fear of repression or violence.
  3. Promoting laws that focus on access to information to engender transparency.
  4. Advocating for reforms at the national and global level which push for access to information and protection of fundamental freedoms.
  5. Disclosing relevant public interest information including government budgets and political party finances.

Transparency International also notes the important role that everyday people can play in the fight against corruption. In fact, Jamaicans overwhelmingly believe in their own ability to fight corruption, with 73 percent of the population believing they can make a difference. Transparency International gives these suggestions for those trying to take up the fight against corruption.

  1. Say no to paying bribes.
  2. Report incidents of corruption to the authorities. When there are no trustworthy authorities, report the incident to Transparency International’s Advocacy and Legal Advice Centers (located in over 90 countries).
  3. Join an Anti-Corruption organization.
  4. Take part in a peaceful protest.
  5. Pay more to buy goods and services from a corruption-free company.
  6. Spread the word about corruption through social media.

Although Jamaicans still face an uphill battle in the fight against corruption in Jamaica, the message from Transparency International is very positive. By making anti-corruption a priority, Jamaicans can bring corruption to the curb, and alleviate much of the poverty and social ills that corruption perpetuates.

– Taylor Pace
Photo: Flickr

Education in JamaicaJamaica is the third-largest island of the Greater Antilles and sits just 90 miles south of Cuba. The country gained full independence in the summer of 1962 from the United Kingdom. It remains part of the British Commonwealth, and as a result, Jamaica makes up the third-most populous English-speaking country in the Americas. Within the last year, education in Jamaica has seen great improvements. Yet, these changes came with years of challenges that have been difficult to overcome. The Education Ministry of Jamaica has become an icon for other Caribbean nations with similar histories, wishing to improve their education systems. Here are five significant facts about education in Jamaica.

Education: A Tool to Weaken Segregation

With the abolition of slavery in 1834, the British viewed education as a tool to integrate ex-slaves into the colonial economy. The British believed that integrating ex-slaves into the economy would result in a peaceful lower class.

By the 1860s, the British relied less on missionary schools, and instead, education in Jamaica was absorbed into the sponsorship of the colonial government. As time went on, separate educational tracks for boys and girls were established by the Lumb Report of 1898. Boys would focus on agricultural training which is a method believed to better control the colonial economy.

To encourage secondary education, elementary schools held annual scholarship questionnaires to allow those unable to afford school fees to attain a higher education. Between 1943 and 1944, the Kandel Report and the Plan for Post-Primary Education in Jamaica concentrated on alleviating the problems of harsh segregation through quality post-primary education. The report and plan resulted in creating a common literacy core for girls and boys.

Inadequate Primary Schools

Grades one to six educate students ranging from the ages of six to 11. Primary education in Jamaica has accomplished universal enrollment yet there are still many challenges that the education system faces.

In elementary school, private and public schools offer very different educational outcomes. Those who attend private schools are often at an extreme advantage while those attending public schools may leave after six years, never fully learning how to read and write. The factors that create this disparity include:

  • class sizes
  • language of instruction
  • the class origins of the teachers.

By the end of grade six, however, every student must take the Grade Six Achievement Examination (GSAT).

Low Academic Achievement

About 99.7 percent of students in Jamaica have access to primary education, and another 83 percent have access to secondary education. Although the access to education is relatively high, academic success is lacking. In 2009, UNICEF concluded that by grade one, no more than 24 percent of six-year-old children going into primary school could master the five sub-tests of the assessment.

By grade four, 70 percent gained mastery of the literacy test. Studies concluded that girls had mastered the literacy test at 81 percent. Boys, on the other hand, had only mastered the test at 59 percent. The numeracy test had even more crippling results. Only 45 percent of students showed mastery. The boys made up 36 percent, behind their female classmates that amounted to 55 percent.

Work To Increase the Quality of Education

Education in Jamaica is on the way towards change. The nation has developed goals to empower Jamaicans by providing quality education. The Ministry of Education launched the Education System Transformation Program (ETSP) in 2009 with the ambitious goal of improving education through a decentralized accountability framework.

A network of institutions is working together to improve the education for every student. The World Bank reported that 90 percent of public schools inspected are prepared to implement the coming plans. Furthermore, 95 percent of all teachers have met all requirements to be registered. The successes of the program resulted in other Caribbean countries approaching Jamaica’s Ministry of Education for help in implementing a similar strategy.

GSAT Performance Has Increased in 2018

The year 2018 has already been very successful for education in Jamaica. The Education ministry reported in June about the extraordinary improvement in the GSAT performance. Education Minister, Senator Ruel Reid, says that an overall increase in four of the five subject areas tested have seen great improvement. Furthermore, 100 percent of the students who registered for the examinations will be placed in seven-year high schools. This historic school year in Jamaica shows great promise for future generations.

– Stefanie Babb
Photo: Flickr