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.