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FEATURE STORY

A PATH to prosperity through partnership in Jamaica

January 22, 2013

From social safety net to aspiring actuary: PATH scholar Chevano Baker (R) is overjoyed to receive his certificate for top academic performer at Manchester High School from Board Chairman Malcolm Housen.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Since 2001, the initiative has helped to transform the lives of nearly 340,000 people of most vulnerable groups.
  • A public private partnership, with the support of World Bank, has invested more than US$ 32 million in a conditional cash transfer program tied to school attendance and clinic visits.
  • Poverty in Jamaica has been perpetuated across successive generations because of adverse health and education seeking behaviors among the poorest families.

He is a national scholarship winner with eyes set on a career in actuarial sciences. At his high school prize giving last November he cleaned up five trophies for the top awards in modern languages, debating, citizenship and academics. His parents, Yvonne and Dicky Baker are as proud as peacocks as they contemplate the current path of their exemplary son.

This narrative could have been quite different for 18 year old Chevano Baker, born to parents of humble means in the deep rural district of Clones in the hilltop parish of Manchester on the island of Jamaica. Manchester High School, to which he won a place through the Grade Six Achievement test, is located in the parish capital of Mandeville, separated from his village by 15 miles of mainly poor roads underserved by public transportation. Just the cost of getting there on a daily basis would put a strain on the family budget, let alone books, uniforms, and basic meals.

This gap in Chevano’s dream has been filled by a World Bank-funded Government of Jamaica program called PATH. A conditional cash transfer safety net scheme, the Programme of Advancement through Health & Education links state support to the poorest families to desirable health and knowledge seeking behaviors.

In Chevano’s words, “PATH has enabled my family and countless others to remain healthy and take advantage of educational opportunities through the payment of a monthly cash benefit. Some of the support is in kind too, like access to lunches at the canteen and to free book loans.”

In fact the program is driven on all sides by public private partnerships. The parents have to first apply, the government has to process the application expeditiously, the most vulnerable family members are obliged to visit the clinics and attend school as needed, and the public health and education facilities need to deliver the services sensitively so that the beneficiaries are never embarrassed when accessing state support.

For their part, Manchester High School emphasizes that it is committed to working with the other partners by active monitoring through its Guidance & Wellness Center at its Perth Road campus.

 “We have seen a particularly impressive showing from our young charges on PATH. Perhaps it is the extra supervision and the knowledge that they have to act responsibly in order to benefit,” Principal Jasford Gabriel opines. “PATH has had a tremendous impact on opening up doors of opportunity for the poorest rural folk in Manchester, paving the way for them, to impact the world,” he adds.

The national picture is also one of great success.  According to World Bank Country Representative Giorgio Valentini, as at December 2010, 338,623 lives have been transformed through access to PATH benefits in Jamaica, inclusive of 48,199 elderly people and 7,888 with disabilities.

“It is a delight to meet real people whose lives are being transformed daily, thanks to PATH. I believe this is the best way to assess the true impact of any program of social protection,” says Francesca Lamanna, Senior Economist in the Social Protection Sector at the World Bank.

Open Quotes

PATH has enabled my family and countless others to remain healthy and take advantage of educational opportunities through the payment of a monthly cash benefit. Some of the support is in kind too, like access to lunches at the canteen and to free book loans. Close Quotes

Chevano Baker
Student and PATH beneficiary

To break the cycle of poverty

One of the most recent innovations of PATH came in May 2012 to reinforce the safety mechanism.  International charity donor Food for the Poor (FFP) Jamaica  and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security , signed a partnership agreement for the provision of housing solutions for poor Jamaican families who are PATH beneficiaries. Derrick Kellier, Minister of Labour and Social Security then announced that the value of the project was J$20 million (US$ 220,000) for the pilot phase in the current financial year.

Expressing his government’s commitment to this program at a recent awards ceremony, Minister Kellier said: "We must be resolute in helping families to build resilience to prevent them from falling further into poverty, in the event of adverse shocks. That is why we remain committed to supporting the social welfare of the most vulnerable in Jamaica, despite budgetary constraints.”

If young Chevano Baker has his way, he will spend the summer of 2013 on a 2-month internship at Jamaica’s central bank which awarded him the national prize in 2012 for an essay on alternative energy sources. He is already well on the PATH to prosperity.