Ministry: Skin bleaching down among students in the west

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

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MONTEGO BAY, St James – There has been a drop in skin bleaching among students attending schools in western Jamaica since Irwin High decided to take a stand against the problem more than a year ago.

Dr Michelle Pinnock, regional director of the education ministry's Region Four, told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that the issue of skin toning at St James High School had been satisfactorily addressed by stakeholders over a year ago.

“We dealt with that long time ago. That is not a recent thing. We had that issue about a year ago,” Dr Pinnock said.

She was speaking to the Observer following the circulation on social media of letter signed by principal of Irwin High Victor Newsome, which subtly warned that the school will not tolerate the practice of skin toning by students.

The letter read: “Dear Parent/Guardian:

“We have observed that there are changes to the tone and complexion of your child/ward. These changes are more visible on his/her face when compared to the photograph that is on file.

“We are therefore asking for a medical report from a doctor concerning the condition, as we are not sure if it is contagious. If this is not forthcoming, we ask that the child/ward remains home until his/her original complexion has returned and when it would have been deemed safe for him/her to be integrated into the school population.”

Dr Pinnock said it would no longer be necessary to issue such a letter to parents as the issue has been resolved at the school.

“We went through the guidance counsellors and we have seen an improvement. We don't have a problem with that anymore,” she noted.

Parents, she said, came in and there were discussions and action taken to have the issue addressed.

In fact, the regional director said bleaching by students throughout schools across the parishes of St James, Hanover and Westmoreland, which constitute Region Four, had noticeably declined in recent times.

“I don't think we have that problem any more because we have worked on it. We [are also] working with the boys with their whole self-confidence and such. We have jumped over that hurdle,” she said.

The Observer was politely told during a visit to the Irwin High School yesterday afternoon that the principal was otherwise engaged and would not be able to speak to our reporter.

President of the Jamaica Teachers' Association Garth Anderson, who is abroad, said he was not familiar with the issue and could not comment on it.

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