2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Central & South American Countries; Countries

Flag of Jamaica Coat of arms of Jamaica
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: Out of many, one people
Anthem: Jamaica, Land We Love
Royal anthem: God Save the Queen
Location of Jamaica
(and largest city)
17°59′N 76°48′W
Official languages English
Government Constitutional Parliamentary Democracy
 - Monarch Elizabeth II
 - Governor-General Kenneth Hall
 - Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller
 - From the UK August 6, 1962 
 - Total 10,991 km² ( 166th)
4,244 sq mi 
 - Water (%) 1.5
 - July 2005 estimate 2,651,000 ( 138th)
 - Density 252/km² ( 49th)
653/sq mi
GDP ( PPP) 2005 estimate
 - Total $11.69 billion ( 131st)
 - Per capita $4,300 ( 114th)
GDP (nominal) 2005 estimate
 - Total $9.730 billion ( 101st)
 - Per capita $3,657 ( 79th)
HDI  (2003) 0.738 (medium) ( 98th)
Currency Dollar ( JMD)
Time zone ( UTC-5)
Internet TLD .jm
Calling code + 1-876

Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, 240 kilometres (150  mi) in length and as much as 85 kilometres (50 mi) in width situated in the Caribbean Sea. It is 635 kilometres (391 mi) east of the Central American mainland, 150 kilometres (93 mi) south of Cuba, and 180 kilometres (112 mi) west of the island of Hispaniola, on which Haiti and the Dominican Republic are situated. Its indigenous Arawakan-speaking Taíno inhabitants named the island Xaymaca, meaning either the "Land of Springs," or the "Land of Wood and Water." Formerly a Spanish possession known as Santiago, then the British West Indies Crown colony of Jamaica. It is the third most populous Anglophone country in the Americas, after the United States and Canada. Jamaica is the largest English speaking island in the Carribean.


The original Arawak or Taino people from South America first settled on the island between 1000 and 400 BC. Although some claim they became virtually extinct following contact with Europeans, others claim that some survived. Whatever the case the culture of the Arawaks are deeply evident and rooted in the food they eat, some of the words used in the dialects, the cultural medicine they practise and the art culture which remained and is now housed at the British Museums.

Jamaica was claimed for Spain after Christopher Columbus first landed there in 1494. Columbus used it as his family's private estate. The British Admiral William Penn (father of William Penn of Pennsylvania) and General Venables seized the island in 1655. During its first 200 years of British rule, post Spanish rule, Jamaica became one of the world's leading sugar exporting nations and produced over 77,000 tons of sugar annually between 1820 and 1824, which was achieved through the massive use of imported African slave labour. When this wasn't enough the British imported Indian and Chinese indentured servants in the early 1800s that remained in Jamaica from then until present day. Over it's 300 years of slavery the majority of the population is visible African in features while having some Euro-Asiatic, Afro-Middle Eastern and Native Indian roots and features, but undoubtedly a unique culture combining all of its slave and indentured population.

By the beginning of the 19th century, the United Kingdom's heavy reliance on slavery resulted in blacks outnumbering whites by a ratio of almost 20 to one, leading to constant threat of revolt. Following a series of rebellions, slavery was formally abolished in 1834, with full emancipation from chattel slavery declared in 1838.

In 1945, Sir Horace Hector Hearne became Chief Justice and Keeper of the Records in Jamaica and sat in the Supreme Court, Kingston between 1945 and 1950/1951, going on to become Chief Justice in Kenya.

Jamaica slowly gained increasing independence from the United Kingdom. In 1958, it became a province in the Federation of the West Indies, a federation among all of the British West Indies. Jamaica attained full independence by leaving the federation in 1962.

Strong economic growth averaging about six percent per annum marked its first ten years of independence under conservative governments led successively by Prime Ministers Alexander Bustamante, Donald Sangster and Hugh Shearer. The growth was fuelled by strong investments in bauxite/alumina, tourism, manufacturing industry and to a lesser extent the agricultural sector. However, the initial optimism of the first decade vanished following a change in Government in 1972. Jamaica lagged economically with its gross national product falling in 1980 to some twenty-five percent below the level previously obtained in 1972. Rising foreign and local debt accompanied by large fiscal deficits resulted in the invitation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) financing from the USA and others, and the imposition of IMF austerity measures (with a greater than 25% interest rate per year).

Economic deterioration continued into the early to the mid 1980s,(in a safe but financially struggling country) exacerbated by the closure of the first (Alpart) and third (Alcoa) largest aluminium producers, significant reduction in production by the second largest (Alcan), the exit of Reynolds Jamaica Mines Ltd from the Jamaican industry and reduced flows from tourism. During the 1980's Jamaica was still a prosperous country and HIV free. [The exchange rate was still approximately 8 USA dollars to 1 Jamaican dollar.] It would be tourism in the 1980's that would introduce HIV into Jamaica (information can be found in the countries health archives) and its surrounding "super-powers" that would plunge the country into deterioration further. While increased disease was being brought in and the wealthy were leaving Jamaica, this period also brought growth in the garment and tourism sectors (through American sweatshop labor and sex tourism) restoring growth averaging about four percent per year in the last half of the decade. Simultaneously its food economy was suffering as the US interrupted the monopoly of banana trade help the UK, yet pulling out of its purchasing power after interruption leaving the once agricultural nation in more financial strain.

Today there is an influx of Colombians into Jamaica bringing increased cocaine smuggling. U.S. deportation of American-raised Jamaicans who commit crimes in America has lead to increased violence in Jamaica and increase rise in gangs. The ultimate result of this cycle of violence, drugs and poverty has been the brutal gun warfare seen on Kingston's streets from the mid-1990s onwards. Since the 1990's Jamaica has had a reputation of being dangerous but there are places in the island that remain safe, unpolluted, and until now tourist free.

The former capital of Jamaica was Spanish Town in the parish of St. Catherine, the site of the old Spanish colonial capital. The Spanish named the town Santiago de la Vega. In 1655 when the British captured the island, much of the old Spanish capital was burned by the invading British troops. The town was rebuilt by the British and renamed Spanish Town. It remained the capital until 1872, when the city of Kingston was named capital under questionable circumstances.

Map of Jamaica
Map of Jamaica


Jamaica's current Constitution was drafted in 1962 by a bipartisan joint committee of the Jamaica legislature. It came into force with the Jamaica Independence Act, 1962 of the United Kingdom Parliament, which gave Jamaica political independence.

The Jamaican head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who is given the title of "Queen of Jamaica". The Queen is represented by a Governor-General, nominated by the Prime Minister and the entire cabinet. All the members of the cabinet are appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister. Both the Queen and the Governor-General serve largely ceremonial roles (excluding their reserve powers).

The Parliament of Jamaica is bicameral, consisting of the House of Representatives (Lower House) and the Senate (Upper House). Members of the House (known as 'Members of Parliament' or MPs) are directly elected, and the member of the House of Representatives who in Governor-General's best judgement, is best able to command the confidence of a majority of the members of that House, is appointed by the Governor-General to be the Prime Minister. Senators are appointed by the Prime Minister, and the parliamentary Leader of the Opposition.

In February 2006, Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller was elected by delegates of the ruling People's National Party to replace P. J. Patterson as President of the Party. At the end of March 2006 when Mr. P.J. Patterson demitted office, Mrs. Simpson-Miller became first female Prime Minister of Jamaica. Former Prime Minister Patterson held office since the 1992 resignation of Michael Manley. Mr.P.J. Patterson was re-elected three times, the last being in 2002. The current leader of the opposition is Bruce Golding.

Jamaica has traditionally had a two party system, with power often alternating between the People's National Party and Jamaica Labour Party.

Jamaica is a full and participating member of the Caribbean Community, or CARICOM.

Administrative divisions

Jamaica is divided into 3 counties and subdivided into 14 parishes.

  • Surrey (county) in the east, containing the following parishes:
    • Kingston
    • Portland
    • Saint Andrew
    • Saint Thomas
  • Middlesex (county) in the centre, containing the following parishes:
    • Clarendon
    • Manchester
    • Saint Ann
    • Saint Catherine
    • Saint Mary
  • Cornwall (county) in the west, containing the following parishes:
    • Hanover
    • Saint Elizabeth
    • Saint James
    • Trelawny
    • Westmoreland


Jamaica is the third largest island in the Caribbean. The island of Jamaica is home to the Blue Mountains inland and is surrounded by a narrow coastal plain. For this reason, most major towns and both cities are located on the coast. Chief towns include the capital city Kingston, Spanish Town, Mandeville, Ocho Rios, Port Antonio and the city of Montego Bay.

The climate in Jamaica is tropical, with hot and humid weather, although inland regions have a more temperate climate. Some regions on the south coast, such as the Liguanea Plain and the Pedro Plains are relatively dry rain-shadow areas.


Jamaica is a mixed, free-market economy with state enterprises as well as private sector businesses. Major sectors of the Jamaican economy include agriculture, mining, manufacturing, tourism and financial and insurance services. Tourism and mining are the leading foreign exchange earners.

Supported by multilateral financial institutions, Jamaica has, since the early 1980's, sought to implement structural reforms aimed at fostering private sector activity and increashing the role of market forces in resource allocation. Since 1991, the Government has followed a program of economic liberalisation and stabilisation by removing exchange controls, floating the exchange rate, cutting tariffs, stabilising the Jamaican currency, reducing inflation and removing restrictions on foreign investment. Emphasis has been placed on maintaining strict fiscal discipline, greater openness to trade and financial flows, market liberalisation and reduction in the size of government. During this period, a large share of the economy was returned to private sector ownership through divestment and privatisation programmes.

The macroeconomic stabilisation programme introduced in 1991, which focused on tight fiscal and monetary policies, has contributed to a controlled reduction in the rate of inflation. The annual inflation rate has decreased from a high of 80.2% in 1991 to 7.9% in 1998. inflation for FY1998/99 was 6.2% compared to 7.2% in the corresponding period in FY1997/98. The Government remains committed to lowering inflation, with a long-term objective of bringing it in line with that of its major trading partners.

After a period of steady growth from 1985 to 1995, real GDP decreased by 1.8% and 2.4% in 1996 and 1997, respectively. The decrease in GDP in 1996 and 1997 was largely due to significant problems in the financial sector and, in 1997, a severe island-wide drought (the worst in 70 years) that drastically reduced agricultural production. In 1997, nominal GDP was approximately J$220,556.2 million (US$6,198.9 million based on the average annual exchange rate of the period).

Fishing boats and bauxite cargo ships share the waterways near Alligator Pond, Jamaica
Fishing boats and bauxite cargo ships share the waterways near Alligator Pond, Jamaica

The economy in 1997 was marked by low levels of import growth, high levels of private capital inflows and relative stability in the foreign exchange market.

Recent economic performance shows the Jamaican economy is recovering. Agricultural production, an important engine of growth increased 15.3% in third quarter of 1998 compared to the corresponding period in 1997, signalling the first positive growth rate in the sector since January 1997. Bauxite and alumina production increased 5.5% from January to December, 1998 compared to the corresponding period in 1997. January's bauxite production recorded a 7.1% increase relative to January 1998. Tourism, which is the largest foreign exchange earner, showed improvement as well. Growth in tourist arrivals accelerated in the third quarter of 1998 and tourism earnings, increased 8.5% from January to December 31, 1998 compared to the corresponding period in 1997. Paul Pennycooke is now the Director of Tourism for the island.

Export and import

Export:(1999) 1,238 billion $ (Natural resources: 55,7%, Food 19,1%, Banana 4%, Chemical 3,6%, Machinery 2,2%). The main export countries: USA 33,4% , United Kingdom 13,4% ,France 5%, Germany 4%, Canada 14,1%, Netherlands 10,2%, Norway 5,8%, Japan 2,3%. Import: (1999) 2,89 billion $ (Energy 50,5%, Machinery and Equipment 7,6%, Consumer goods 33,2%). The main import countries: USA 48,1%, Trinidad and Tobago 7,8%, Japan 6,9%, United Kingdom 3,7%, France 5%, Canada 3%.


Jamaica has a fully digital telephone communication system. Jamaica has a mobile penetration of over 90%. The country’s three mobile operators are - Cable and Wireless , Digicel, and Oceanic Digital - and have spent millions in network upgrade and expansion. The Irish owned Digicel has become generic for mobile phones in Jamaica. Digicel was granted a licence in 2001, along with Oceanic Digital to operate mobile services in the newly liberalised telecoms market that was once the monopoly domain of the incumbent Cable and Wireless. Digicel opted for the more global, GSM while Oceanic which currently trades as MiPHone, for the CDMA. The incumbent Cable and Wireless, had begun with the TDMA, but subsequently upgraded to the GSM, and currently uses both services on its network.

With the services Digicel initiated, land lines, provided by Cable and Wireless, declined from just over half a million to roughly about three hundred thousand as of 2006. Cable and Wireless, recently in a bid to grab more market share, launched a new land line service called HomeFone Prepaid that would allow customers to prepay for services rather than post-paid. However, there were new entrants in that landline industry and the population kept opting for more mobiles, in some cases two mobiles, as per major operator. A new entrant Flow Jamaica, has recently laid a new submarine cable which would give the island access to four, is currently rolling out its services which consist of, Cable Television, Digital Telephone, and Broadband Internet, in its, ‘Watch,Talk,Click’ campaign. Island-wide coverage is not yet available.

Two more licenses were auctioned by the Jamaican government to provide mobile services in the island, one that was previously owned by AT&T Wireless, but did not start operation and a new one. However industry analyst argued that with a near market saturation, there is hardly room for more operators.


The majority of Jamaicans, at least 90%, are of West African descent. East Indian 1.3%, Mixed 7.3%, White 0.2%, Chinese 0.2%, and Other 0.1%. Immigration from countries such as China, Columbia, South Asia, and many parts of the West Indies have seen a steady rise. All data statistics are based off the CIA Factbook.

Over the past several decades, hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans have emigrated, mostly to the UK because of an encouragement in the 60's but also to the United States, Canada and other countries. The determing factor has often been family location and economic circumstances that determine how far they are able to travel. This emigration appears to have been tapering off somewhat in recent years. Canada also has a guest worker program (Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program) which draws on workers from the Caribbean and especially from Jamaica.

The language of government and education is English, although the patois form of Jamaican Creole is widely spoken. Most Jamaicans can use both Patois and English depending on the circumstances and often combine the two. British English is the most obvious influence on Patois, but it includes words and syntax from Spanish, Yoruba, Akan, Arawak, French, Chinese, Portuguese, and East Indian languages which is evidence of the long standing mixing of the people. In general, Patois differs from English in both pronunciation and syntax, having many intonations to indicate meaning and mood. The language's characteristics includes similarities with both Irish and West African forms of English in pronouncing 'TH' as if it was the letter D or T, omitting some initial consonant sounds, principally the 'H'. For example, the word “there” is pronounced as “dere,”. A number of linguists believe Patois is a separate language; others consider it an alternate form of English (dialect).

Research shows that 80.0% of Jamaica's population are Christian. The majority of them are Protestants also known as Anglican, which is primarily due to the influence of British colonialism, and later the influence of US denominations. The top 5 denominations in Jamaica today are: Church of God: , Seventh-day Adventist: Baptist: Pentecostal: and Anglican:

Non-Christian religions are numerous, the largest being the Rastafari movement which was founded on the island and reveres the late Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia. Obeah is a belief system with roots in the West African Yoruba Orisha traditions and has similarities to Vodon, Santeria, Candomble and other imports to the Americas which arrived with enslaved West Africans. Hinduism and Buddhism also appear due to immigration from India and the People's Republic of China. Islam and Judaism are less than half a percent.


Over the past several decades, close to a million Jamaicans have emigrated, especially to the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. This emigration appears to have been tapering off somewhat in recent years, however the great number of Jamaicans living abroad has become known as the " Jamaican diaspora". Due to Commonwealth law and Jamaica's history with Great Britain, most Jamaican emigrants have followed a path first to the UK, and then if they do not remain in the UK, on to other Commonwealth countries such as Canada. Today that trend has changed with more Jamaican emigrants going directly to the United States, Canada, other Caribbean nations, Central & South America, and even Africa (most notably Egypt and Ethiopia) without having to pass through the UK first.

Concentrations of expatriate Jamaicans are large in a number of cities in the United States, including New York City, the Miami metro area, Atlanta, Orlando, Tampa, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. In Canada, the Jamaican population is centred in Toronto; in the United Kingdom, Jamaican communities exist in most large cities where they make up the larger part of the British African-Caribbean community.

New York City is home to the largest Jamaican diaspora community of all, with a large community along Flatbush, Nostrand and Utica Avenues in Brooklyn—centred around the neighbourhoods of Prospect Heights, Lefferts Gardens, Flatbush, East Flatbush, Crown Heights, Canarsie, and Flatlands. The Bronx, Queens and Westchester also has a significant Jamaican ex-pat community. Flatbush, Nostrand, and Utica Avenues feature miles of Jamaican cuisine, food markets & other businesses, nightlife and residential enclaves. Throughout the summer months of June, July, August and early September, there are a variety of plays, dance performances concerts, festivals representing Jamaican & Caribbean culture; and culminates during the last week in August leading up to Labor Day Monday in September with the Parade/Carnival along Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. Events include a Children's Parade, Steel Pan competition, various concerts & parties, J'ouvert in the early morning hours on Labor Day; and later on Labor Day Monday, the various mas camps 'broke out & whine' for the Judges' panel in front of the Brooklyn Museum.

In Toronto, the Jamaican community makes up nearly 7% of the city's 2.5 million people, and includes a Little Jamaica neighbourhood. Other Caribbean areas in the city are located in York, North York, Scarborough and Rexdale. The Jamaican community influences the city in a huge way. The world's largest festival, called Caribana (the celebration of Caribbean culture) is an annual event here. Jamaica Day is in July and the Jesus in the City Parade attracts many Jamaican Christians. This festival is held downtown every September, shutting down Yonge street - the busiest main street in downtown Toronto. Reggae and Gospel now have made it into Toronto's mainstream.

London has a strong Jamaican diaspora. Close to 4% of Londoners are of Jamaican heritage. Many are now at least second if not third or fourth generation Black British Caribbeans. Also a further 2% of people in London are of mixed Jamaican and British origin, the largest mixed race group of the country and the fastest growing. This is testimony to how well integrated the Jamaicans are into London and British society . One of the largest and most famous Jamaican ex-pat communities is in Brixton, South London. More large Jamaican communities in London are Tottenham and Hackney in North London, Harlesden in North-West London, and Lewisham in South-East London. The highest concentration of Jamaicans are in the Inner-city South london boroughs. Other Jamaican communities include the areas of St pauls and Easton in Bristol, Chapeltown in Leeds, Moss Side in Manchester, Toxteth in Liverpool, Burngreave in Sheffield and Handsworth in Birmingham More recently many resort and wild-life management skilled Jamaicans have been trending emigration toward such far-flung nations as Thailand, Madagascar and Indonesia. The nation continues to have a severe problem with barrel children--those left on their own by parents seeking a better life abroad.


The emancipation of the slaves heralded in the establishment of Jamaican Education System for the masses. Prior to emancipation there were some elite schools for the plantocracy. Others sent their children off to England to access quality education.

After emancipation the West Indian Commission granted a sum of money to establish Elementary Schools, now known as All Age Schools, for the children of the freed slaves. Most of these schools were established by the churches. This was the genesis of the stratified system of education that is still currently embedded in the policies of the 21st century.

Presently the following categories of schools exist:

Early Childhood – Basic, Infant and privately operated pre- school. Age cohort – 3 – 7 years.

Primary – Publicly and privately owned (Privately owned being called Preparatory Schools (Prep). Ages 7 – 12 years.

Secondary – Publicly and privately owned. Ages 12 – 18 years. Tertiary - Community Colleges, Teachers’ Colleges, Vocational Training Centres, Colleges and Universities.

There is no free education in Jamaica above the Primary Level. Although there isn't free education, they have a place for those who can't afford further education.


The Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) is the small but professional military force of Jamaica. The JDF is based upon the British military model with organisation, training, weapons and traditions closely aligned with Commonwealth Realm Countries. Once chosen, officer candidates are sent to one of several British or Canadian basic officer courses depending upon which arm of service they are slated for. Enlisted soldiers are given basic training at JDF Training Depot, Newcastle. As on the British model, NCOs are given several levels of professional training as they rise up the ranks. Additional military schools are available for speciality training in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

The JDF is directly descended from the British West Indies Regiment formed during the colonial era. The West Indies Regiment was used extensively by the British Empire in policing the empire from 1795 to 1926. Other units in the JDF heritage include the early colonial Jamaica Militia, the Kingston Infantry Volunteers of WWI and reorganised into the Jamaican Infantry Volunteers in WWII. The West Indies Regiment was reformed in 1958 as part of the West Indies Federation. The dissolution of the Federation resulted in the establishment of the JDF.

The Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) comprises an infantry Regiment and Reserve Corps, an Air Wing, a Coast Guard fleet and a supporting Engineering Unit. The infantry regiment contains the 1st, 2nd and 3rd (National Reserve) battalions. The JDF Air Wing is divided into three flight units, a training unit, a support unit and the JDF Air Wing (National Reserve). The Coast Guard element is divided between sea-going crews and support crews. It conducts maritime safety and maritime law enforcement as well as defence-related operations. The support battalion contains a Military Police platoon as well as vehicle, armourers and supply units. The 1st Engineer Regiment provides military engineering support to the JDF. The Headquarters JDF contains the JDF commander, command staff as well as intelligence, judge advocate office, administrative and procurement sections.

In recent years the JDF has been called upon to assist the nation's police, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) in fighting drug smuggling and a rising crime rate which includes one of the highest murder rates in the world. JDF units actively conduct armed patrols with the JCF in high-crime areas and known gang neighbourhoods. There has been vocal controversy as well as support of this JDF role. In early 2005, an opposition leader, Edward Seaga, called for the merger of the JDF and JCF. This has not garnered support in either organisation nor among the majority of citizens.

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