- The first phase of the programme is expected to benefit thousands of children in some 61 schools
- $200 million has been allocated in the 2013/14 budget for this purpose
- The intervention is expected to target children, who are unable to attend school because they cannot afford the transportation costs
With less than a week before the start of the 2013/2014 academic year, the Government is set to roll out a transportation allowance initiative to help offset travel expenses for Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) students.
The first phase of the programme is expected to benefit thousands of children in some 61 schools island-wide.
Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Derrick Kellier, who made the announcement on August 28, during a back-to-school press briefing held at the Office of the Prime Minister, said a total of $200 million has been allocated in the 2013/14 budget for this purpose.
He informed that the Ministry of Finance and Planning will be releasing the first tranche towards phase one of the initiative during the upcoming school year.
The intervention is expected to target children, who are unable to attend school because they cannot afford the transportation costs and is also designed to mitigate the impact of the recent increase in fares on PATH households.
The Minister pointed out that while children in the Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMA), including those who are on PATH, are subsidised by the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC), there is no such subsidy for children in the rural areas.
He noted that the allowance will therefore significantly assist disadvantaged children in rural Jamaica.
According to Mr. Kellier, the Ministry of Labour will be working in partnership with the Ministry of Education to implement the programme in schools with the highest levels of absenteeism. “As such, only children who have been identified by PATH as having chronic absenteeism issues will be eligible for the allowance,” he stated.
It is projected that the selected schools impacted by this new transportation allowance will see attendance rates improve by some 10 per cent.
Social workers attached to the Labour Ministry will work with guidance counsellors in the selected schools to identify children with transportation challenges.
Minister Kellier explained that the schools have the option of making the payments directly to the eligible students or to enter into special arrangements with transportation operators and providers, to transport the students to school.
To ensure a smooth transfer of funds, all selected schools will be provided with bank accounts, which will be managed by a committee consisting of the school principal, bursar, guidance counsellor, and a social worker from the Labour Ministry.
The Transportation Allowance Programme forms part of a number of initiatives designed to improve school attendance among children on PATH, which will be implemented this year.
The project is also an extension of the ‘School Wi Seh’ pilot programme, which targets absenteeism in four Clarendon-based high schools.