Mon | Dec 10, 2018

Glenn Tucker | Stop the noise over anti-HPV regime

Published:Friday | October 6, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Kaysia Kerr

I have a big problem with my editor. He refuses to allow me to 'trace' off certain persons in my articles. And word has now come that, despite my pleas, I am not allowed to use expletives - even on this one occasion.

I am now feeling like some of our single mothers who - discovering, belatedly, that children actually need food, friendship and focus for their future functioning in a civilised society - are so frustrated, they want to strike out at anyone, with anything.

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in Jamaica. Each year, 392 cases are diagnosed and 185 women die from it. The cost of treatment is enormous.

It is for these and other reasons that the Ministry of Health decided to administer HPV vaccines in schools, starting with 20,000 girls in grade seven. The vaccine is expected to go a far way in preventing cervical cancer.

Kaysia Kerr, head of the National Parenting Support Commission, said her organisation, and parents who were contacted, endorsed the initiative. Not so, the principals and teachers. They are unhappy with the quality of communication coming from the Ministry of Health.


Largest audience


The school is the largest captive audience. Within that audience is the target audience. Communication skills are critical for any learning to take place. HPV is not rocket science. We are awash with information. All of a sudden, principals and their staff don't know and don't know how to know.

Would it be too much to expect the schools to unveil the programme, the plan, the procedure and the precautions? Couldn't an adult version be unveiled at the PTA? Should anyone be better able than the school to do this? Why is it necessary to frustrate this excellent programme for the reasons given?

When I was a young social worker, I met a beautiful little three-year-old at a settlement in east Kingston. Her feet were badly deformed. I got her father's permission to seek a medical opinion. Doctors said it could be corrected surgically. Two hours before the procedure, the father declared that he wanted to "jus mek it stay an 'watch' it".

At nine, the child was reported to be 'giving trouble and woa go to school'. I met her again in 2006. Then an adult, liquor, cigarettes and nocturnal activities had robbed her of her beauty. She admitted that she had never been a bad child. But the daily teasing she endured at school "mek mi feel like mi did ago mad". The only option she felt she had was to run away.

A lot of what should be mandatory in this country is optional. And whatever is optional, we usually opt to 'opt out of'.

- Glenn Tucker is an educator and social worker. Email feedback to and