In a time where voting in Jamaica has dwindled significantly, Donna Parchment Brown, the island’s political ombudsman, says the upcoming Jamaica Strong and Free: A Civic Education Handbook is a gift to Jamaicans, particularly in light on this year’s Diamond Jubilee.
Active civic engagement is the bedrock of a healthy democracy, and in a country which in 2020 saw its lowest voter turnout of the last two decades, Parchment Brown outlined for Our Today the importance of civic education.
“[Civic Education] really is connected to democracy, good citizenship, good governance and rule of law,” she said.
Continuing Parchment Brown added: “And I think those are very important for every country and certainly a country like ours celebrating its Diamond Jubilee with a people who are optimistic and creative and whose potential has not yet been fulfilled. Civic education may be part of the missing link.”
The handbook, which is the outcome of an idea formed in 2019, was described by the Parchment Brown as a “gift to Jamaica in its Diamond Jubilee” and is aimed at addressing this issue.
A 2021 report published from the Election Campaign review, suggested that civic education was needed to increase the number of voters and engagement among citizens.
Commenting on the anticipated response to the reception of the handbook, Parchment Brown said: “Well, if I am to judge from the reception in our office and from everyone who I’ve spoken to [about] it so far, it’s very enthusiastic. People have long spoken about the need for more civic knowledge and more civic education. The consultation pointed to that.”
With citizen mistrust of government at an all-time high in the Caribbean, according to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the political ombudsman noted that “the timing of this handbook, chock full of information, beautifully done, would just fit the bill.”
The Civic Education Handbook will be available in audio, digital and print formats.
The physical copies, which are free of cost, will be available at the Office of the Political Ombudsman.
Parchment Brown, who noted that there are limited copies, added that individuals must send an email or call to inform the office of their interest in obtaining a physical copy prior to coming in.
The audio and digital forms will be available today (May 19). Persons can either scan the QR code below or click here.
The Office of the Political Ombudsman, which launched the first-of-its-kind Civic Education Handbook today, is hopeful that this project will provide information and awaken the social consciousness of Jamaicans, particularly in the age group 15 – 30 years, to the relationship between themselves and the government as well as to their role as democratic, responsible, participatory and patriotic citizens.