Jamaica, being the largest English-speaking nation in the Caribbean Island, gained its independence in 1962. Since independence, the country has moved through various developmental stages, each of which has been characterized by political, economic, and social outlook. From slavery to emancipation, through to crown colony government, and finally to independence, Jamaica has experienced the absence of peoples rights, the limited recognition of rights to all Jamaicans, to independence where the Constitution of 1962 explicitly recognized equal rights to all Jamaicans. Over the last four decades, since the 1970s, Jamaica has passed various legislations, promulgated policies, and designed programs that have inevitably improved the lives of ordinary Jamaicans. Therefore, Jamaica has made social progress in welfare since independence that is not limited to health, education, and caring for the most vulnerable. However, the purpose of this essay is to point out the progress Jamaica has made on these three social welfare aspects.
Regarding health, progress has been made. Firstly, in Jamaica, health care has always been recognized as a basic right since independence. Therefore, the expansion of healthcare facilities since the 1970s was a direct response to this belief. Even so, this does not emanate from local law, but the country has made signatories both to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and these are part of the legislative framework for the provision of healthcare services in the country. Secondly, every child under seven years should be immunized as per the 1986 Regulations to Immunization Act. The Act is enforced by preventing school enrolment for the children if the parents do not take any step towards immunizing their children (Planning Institute of Jamaica, 2003). However, policy shifts since 1962, which were characterized by expansion of the health sector in the 1970s and contraction in the 1980s, forced citizens to turn to the private system. However, after reforms were adopted in the 1990s, which entailed the introduction of cost-sharing in the public hospitals, which is also incorporated today as user-fee removal for primary and secondary health services. Besides, immunization, the Jamaican health sector is also characterized by the desire to protect the health of the child as stipulated in the Registration of Births and Deaths Acts. In addition to these local laws, the health sector is driven by international conventions and agreements, including child nutrition, breast-feeding, and mental health. In addition, health facilities have been moved closer to people, even in the rural areas, for children, youth, and adults, thereby easy access to health facilities. Thirdly, the government has incorporated financial protection in the Jamaican health system, which facilitates access to direct supplementary and medical care services, including medication. For instance, financial barriers to seeking public system care were removed with the abolishment of user fees for children in 2007 and for the general population on April 1, 2008 (Campbell, 2013).
On education, progress has been made. Firstly, from the beginning of post-emancipation, the education system was two-tiered, with the general population receiving elementary education primarily designed to civilize them. It was synonymous with All Age school system and was provided alongside a classical and broader academics for children in the upper and middle classes. However, with political independence, access to education was widened guaranteed provision of universal primary education was adopted, which from 2001 included students until grade 11 (Miller & Munroe, 2014). Besides, since the 1980s, children aged 3 to 5 had universal enrolment with little difference in socioeconomic grouping. Secondly, special education was included for students with disabilities, as stipulated in the Early Childhood Policy, where several instrumental, normative, and institutional provisions for children with special needs have been made. The National Policy for Persons with Disabilities enacted in September 2000, as well as the National Council for Persons with Disabilities, are mandated to provide vocational training for the disabled. In addition, National Training Agency is involved with skills and vocational training for students who existed the secondary system at grade 9 without any skills or certification. Thirdly, financial protection was offered to students, thereby preventing exclusion by financial needs. Primary education is free and the secondary education tuition fees were abolished in 2007, which left parents to take care of costs, such as books. In effect, these aspects have improved the education sector in the country.
In addition, there has been progress in caring for the most vulnerable. Firstly, affordable housing has been provided to the citizens and thus, Jamaica has recognized the human need for shelter. Since independence, the government has focused on land provision and housing as components of social development (Planning Institute of Jamaica, 2007). For example, for the poor, the government over the last four decades has embarked on large-scale land titling projects with the sole aim of registering land parcels or families who have settled in them without any ownership proof. Secondly, the government over the last four decades has worked to provide basic amenities, such as portable water, electricity, and proper sanitation via toilet facilities for the poor. Thirdly, in a bid to eliminate poverty, the Board of Supervision, a statutory body that works under the Poor Relief Act monitors the delivery of relief services to the poor via the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (Eubanks, 2014). In addition, as pointed out earlier, the education system provides special education for students with disabilities, as well as delivering free primary and tuition-fee free secondary education, making it possible for the poor to access education. Lastly, improving elderly care in Jamaica has been adopted, and as the GlobalGiving organization points out, it has initiated a project to provide critical medical equipment to Jamaican senior homes to increase the quality of care for the aging individuals.
In conclusion, since independence, Jamaica has had social welfare progress regarding health, education, and taking care of the vulnerable in the society. The progress so far is good. The social condition have ameliorated, poverty has been eradicated, and an equal rights and justice has been adopted, but the country has much to accomplish to achieve equity in social welfare.
Campbell, A. (2013). The abolition of user fees in the Jamaican public health system: impact on access, care provided and the work of the professional nurse. Thesis, Victoria University of Wellington: New Zealand.
Eubanks, O. (2014). Government Committed To Improving Care For Most Vulnerable - Jamaica information Service. Jamaica Information Service. Retrieved 2 August 2016, from http://jis.gov.jm/govt-committed-improving-care-vulnerable/
GlobalGiving, (n.d). Improving elderly care in Jamaica. GlobalGiving. Retrieved from https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/improving-elderly-care-in-jamaica/
Miller, E., & Munroe, G. C. (2014). Education in Jamaica: Transformation and Reformation. Education in the Commonwealth Caribbean and Netherlands Antilles, 22, 221.
Planning Institute of Jamaica (2003). The Jamaican Child: A Report of the Social Indicators Monitoring System 2002. Kingston, Jamaica
Planning Institute of Jamaica (2007) Economic and Social Survey of Jamaica. Kingston, Jamaica
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