There are 107,115 children between the ages 3 – 5 year in Jamaica. According to UNICEF, at least 25% of these children are growing up in immense poverty, experiencing hardships that no child should have to endure. Many live in overcrowded housing, routinely suffer hunger and malnourishment and are exposed to abuse, child labour and HIV. In some of the poorest communities, unemployment and violence are endemic and positive role models are few and far between. For many, childhood itself is an unaffordable luxury.

Definitions of child poverty center around three areas: deprivation, exclusion and vulnerability.

“Children living in poverty experience deprivation of the material, spiritual, and emotional resources needed to survive, develop and thrive, leaving them unable to enjoy their rights, achieve their full potential or participate as full and equal members of society”. UNICEF

“Child poverty is the denial of a child’s rights. It restrains children from achieving their full potential, adversely affecting health, inhibiting personal development, education and general well-being”. European Commission (EC)

The first step towards breaking the cycle of poverty is the provision of good Early Childhood Education. However, too many families face exclusion due to lack of affordability and difficult living circumstances, depriving many children of the opportunity to learn.

Children in the lowest socio-economic groups make the greatest gains in development when provided with quality Early Childhood Education. Unfortunately, Jamaica already struggles with the provision of good quality education and the pandemic has severely impacted vulnerable families in the lower socio-economic strata. 

Pre-schools continue to exceed the economic reach of many families as all costs including school fees, textbooks, materials and uniforms fall entirely on the parents. Poverty is particularly rife in rural areas, where up to 100% of the children come to school without any necessary books or basic supplies, making learning difficult and badly affecting self-esteem.

Many parents are unable to buy the regular books required to assist their children, because of their financial situations. Hence, teachers face a challenge with the lack of electronic education devices, a lack of teaching resources, oversized classes, lack of parental support and lack of resources.

Through the Books4Kids program, 4 and 5 year old children receive a blue or red book bag containing the popular 300-page BrainQuest Workbook, a reading book, a pack of crayons and a pencil. 

About Books4Kids Jamaica
Ragni Trotta is a Board Member of Books4Kids Jamaica. Addressing an urgent and critical need, The Books4Kids Jamaica program is an Early Childhood Education (ECE) community initiative which seeks to preserve each child’s right to education through the continued provision of physical book and educational materials. Under the slogan “The future is bright, when you can read and write!,” 4 and 5 year old children receive an individual book bag containing a 360-page Brain Quest Workbook, a reading book, a pack of crayons and a pencil. The Brain Quest Workbook provides enough curriculum for an entire school year and many schools use it as their primary educational tool. Since 2007, the initiative has supplied over 300,000 books and materials to 100,000 children in 150 schools across Jamaica. With no government support, it is a community project that involves hundreds of sponsors, volunteers, principals, teachers and government officials in fundraising and distribution efforts every year.

List of Sources:

“The Reform of Education”, The Jamaican Education Transformation Commission, Professor The Honourable Orlando Patterson, OM, Chairman, Sept 2021

Public Expenditure Review of the Education Sector in Jamaica, June 2021

Education Global Practice, Latin America and the Caribbean

World Bank Group and UNICEF

Child Poverty and Disparities in Jamaica, UNICEF

Commissioned by UNICEF, Jamaica in partnership with the Planning Institute of Jamaica

UNICEF – The Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Jamaican Children

UNDP-funded COVID-19 impact study identifies most vulnerable groups in Jamaica, Posted on November 28, 2021

Return to paradise: A poverty perspective on Jamaica’s COVID-19 recovery response, World Bank


Endangered and Transformative Childhood in Caribbean Small Island Developing States.

Professor Aldrie Henry-Lee of The University of the West Indies, Mona Campus

UNICEF: Lifelong learning Quality education for all children

Remittances to region projected to reach record high, The Gleaner, November 18, 2021

Suffer the little children… and how the poor things suffer! Jamaica Observer

“A crisis of poor performance” The Gleaner, Jan 14, 2022

“CSEC maths passes plummet” The Gleaner, Oct 20, 2021

“Golding vows to end educational apartheid” The Gleaner, Oct 18, 2021

“A fresh start for education?” The Gleaner, Oct 15, 2021

The World Bank Personal remittances, received (% of GDP) – Jamaica

Inter-American Development Bank: Remittances as a Safety Net in Jamaica
Diether W. Beuermann Inder Jit Ruprah Ricardo E. Sierra 

Inter-American Development Bank Country Department Caribbean Group POLICY BRIEF No.  IDB-PB-235 October 2014 

Bank of Jamaica: Remittance Report, April 2014

External Sector Statistics Unit, Economic Information & Publications Department

The World Bank: Jamaican Government, NGOs and World Bank Partner for Better Health, Education and Training , February 8, 2011

Remittances to Jamaica, Remittance Survey 2010

Findings from a National Survey of Remittance Recipients, E. G. Ramocan