GHS ordered to reverse decision in relation to school uniform
The Ministry of Health in an official release has noted that the fight against dengue fever is a shared responsibility.
And, as a result, the Ministry is asking persons to continue to work together to further reduce the number of new cases and the occurrence of bad outcomes.
The reminder from the health ministry came just as the Ministry of Education shot down a decision by the Girls’ High School (GHS) that students revert to wearing their regular uniforms to school.
Back in September, in an effort to fight the spread of dengue fever, the Ministry of Education heeded the advice of the Ministry of Health and strongly suggested that students throughout the country wear long sleeved shirts and long pants to classes.
However, during an assembly of the all-girl school last week, Headmistress Michelle Beache told students that beginning from Monday November 23, the first day internal examinations, they would be required to wear their regular school uniforms when attending school.
Following the directive, a vast majority of students began wearing their school uniforms on Monday, despite the fact that the Surveillance Committee of the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment noted that 1,617 laboratory-confirmed cases of dengue fever had been recorded as at November 14.
Also, the Committee confirmed that a 10-year-old female, with an underlying cardiac condition was admitted to the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (MCMH) on November 14 and died on Friday, November 20 from severe dengue fever.
The death of this child brought to seven, the number of persons who have died as a direct result of dengue fever during this current epidemic.
The decision by the GHS to ask students to stop wearing protective clothing was seen as “strange” by some parents as the school is located near to a river and it has been noted that the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, the vector that carries dengue fever, is attracted to dark colours and tends to bite around the ankles.
The colour of the skirt of the school’s uniform is navy blue.
One parent also described the decision as “weird” as on Friday October 9, Kaylee Robertson, a 13-year-old third form student of the school became the sixth person to die from complications related to Severe Dengue Fever in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).
One parent, Lyf Compton, took to social media site Facebook to voice his opinion on the decision.
He wrote, “as persons continue to die from Dengue Fever in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), preventative measures suggested by the Ministry of Health through the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and passed on to the Ministry of Education are being ignored by management at the Girls’ High School (GHS).
“Students are being forced to wear their uniforms and not the attire that is being allowed by all other schools on the island and is highly recommended by the CMO.
Compton said he spoke with Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education Myccle Burke and Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Simone Keizer-Beache about the issue and during the conversation with the CMO it was noted that the wearing of long clothing has been linked to the reduction in dengue cases, although the numbers are still higher than normal.
A teacher who preferred to remain anonymous said that several parents and teachers at the GHS had questioned the decision by the school’s management before the Ministry of Education stepped in.
The teacher noted that after complaints began making the rounds, the teachers were told to not officially announce that the decision which called for the wearing of uniforms had been rescinded, but not to rebuke students who wore long clothing, but also not inform students who wore uniforms that they could revert to protective clothing.
The Pan-American Health Organization’s (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean (EC) Dr Yitades Gebre recently stated that all governments need to provide leadership, clear communication and strong public health measures and resources and partnerships to fight dengue.
He said that so far, the Caribbean is being advised to contain the spread of dengue, as 2.7 million cases, many of whom are children, have been recorded in the Caribbean, Latin America and North America thus far for 2020.
“Individuals need to do their part in avoiding bites by mosquitoes, keeping homes free of the vector, personal protection and caring for most vulnerable in the family such as children and persons with chronic illness, and seeking medical attention early, when feeling sick,” Dr Gebre stated earlier this month.