Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Derrick Kellier, says the Ministry is committed to eliminating all stigma and discrimination associated with the Programme of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH).
“Many times we have noted several reports of stigma and discrimination aimed at students and other beneficiaries of the programme. We are told of situations where a small number of schools and other service providers have practices that make it difficult for us to achieve our goals,” he noted.
The Minister told JIS News that the Ministry stands shoulder to shoulder with the Ministries of Education and Health to eliminate such practices islandwide.
“We will be working to ensure that we implement strategies to eliminate the scourge of discrimination in our schools, health facilities, our post offices and all service points for PATH beneficiaries. As a nation, we must understand the role of social protection in the development of our country, and ensure that our citizens understand that it is a right which is made available to them,” he explained.
Mr. Kellier said the Government is aware of the considerable challenges which “we face as a country, but more specifically as families, and as individuals,” and that more must be done, with the limited resources available, to secure the wellbeing of the nation’s vulnerable.
He said that with respect to the programme, the Government will provide the platform on which growth will be engendered, eliminating all stigma and discrimination.
"We are reminded that these youngsters are to be emboldened to know and see themselves as a part of loving families, as part of strong communities, and as contributing citizens of the world, involved in a prosperous Jamaica. Therefore, if they are to feel good about themselves, and the programme, there should be no stigma and discrimination whatsoever," he emphasised.
The Minister pointed out that since the inception of PATH, there have been many successes that are worth mentioning. "The programme is now the largest social protection support system in the English speaking Caribbean, which provides benefits to over 399,000 individuals in approximately 130,000 families,” he informed JIS News.
These beneficiaries include children, persons with disabilities, the elderly, pregnant and lactating women in poor households.
"One of the conditions of PATH is that of the responsibility of the parents and the family to ensure that students in both primary and secondary schools are in attendance at least 85 per cent of each academic year,” the Minister pointed out.
“Our data show that boys perform 10 per cent below girls in all school groups, with the compliance of male students in grades 10 to 13 falling as low as 69 per cent in some periods. It is no wonder, therefore, that over 70 per cent of the population in our tertiary level institutions are females,” Mr. Kellier said.
He pointed out that the Ministry and its partners are seeking to change this trend by assisting the boys, through a series of public education interventions, which aim to eradicate all negativity surrounding the programme.