Jamaica is the largest island in the English-speaking Caribbean with a population of 2.93 million people. During the COVID pandemic, the island’s economy lost 150,000 jobs, pushing 400,000 Jamaicans further into poverty.

In the tourism sector alone, more than 50,000 employees were laid off, severely affecting the western and northern coast of Jamaica, home to the island’s most popular tourist resort areas. With a national minimum wage of US$40 per week, most Jamaicans rely on remittance from relatives abroad to survive.

The pandemic has magnified the existing crisis in Jamaica’s education system, leading to an unprecedented challenge. Despite public/ private partnerships to mitigate school closures through provision of schooling via virtual and media platforms, the education sector has been severely impacted.

In September 2021, The Jamaican Education Transformation Commission identified the lack of quality education in the Early Childhood Education sector as the fundamental problem in a failing education system. Simply put, it found that pre-school children are not prepared for primary school.

The Commission, headed by Harvard Professor Orlando Patterson OM, recommended the reallocation of funds to Early Childhood Education as one of the core interventions needed in order to provide quality education to the country’s youngest. Reports by the World Bank Group and UNICEF similarly recommend the reallocation of resources to Early Childhood Education in Jamaica.

Low learning outcomes continue to impede human capital accumulation in Jamaica, trapping generations into a cycle of academic and economic poverty. According to the World Bank’s Human Capital Index, a child born in Jamaica today will only be 53% as productive when they grow up, as compared to their counterpart who enjoyed a complete education and full health care.

Now the education crisis has been further exacerbated by the COVID pandemic and the physical closure of schools for almost 2 years. According to World Bank simulations, Jamaican children risk losing 1.3 years of schooling as a result of school closures during the pandemic – a handicap many may never recover from.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating effects on education, during which the teacher-student classroom experience has been substituted by technological means. Although technology has filled a serious gap in reaching students, many do not have devices, are unable to afford the cost of the internet or simply live in geographical areas where service is non-existent.

The lack of books and materials continues to be a critical and urgent need among pre-school children in Jamaica. Low-income families were hit especially hard during the pandemic and are still struggling to recover. 

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. In 2022, Books4Kids Jamaica provided books and materials than 8,000 preschool children at 100 Infant Schools and Early Childhood Institutions across Jamaica.

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 more than 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. Over 50 volunteers and sponsors took part in last year’s book distribution. www.books4kidsjamaica.com


“The Reform of Education” Report, The Jamaican Education Transformation Commission (2021)
UNICEF (2021, 2022)
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (2021)
The Bank of Jamaica (2010, 2014, 2021)
The Inter-American Development Bank (2014)

United Nations – Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) (2021)

The Planning Institute of Jamaica, Department of Economics, University of the West Indies (2009)

The World Bank Group (2011, 2020, 2021)

The Jamaica, Gleaner (2021, 2022)
The Jamaica Observer (2021)

Annual Report written by: Ragni Trotta

Cover photo: Ragni Trotta