The National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) is blaming drug and substance abuse for the unrest plaguing public secondary schools in the country.
NACADA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Victor Okioma said drug and substance abuse and alcohol consumption among learners is at the heart of the recent waves of school unrest.
Okioma said the authority is planning to roll out an aggressive drug abuse awareness campaign involving parents, teachers and learners.
The NACADA boss said the increasing addiction to illicit drugs and other illegal substances by young learners has reached a worrisome crescendo.
He emphasised the need to make parents, teachers, students and school support staff more aware of the dangers of drug abuse.
“We want to empower parents and teachers so as to counsel their children and young learners on the negative effects of using illicit drugs,” he said.
The NACADA CEO said they will start training school stakeholders regarding checking for early warning signs, keeping a tab on activities of the students and reporting the same to the administration for intervention.
“Our surveys have all along pointed at substance and alcohol use among learners for the school arsons and general indiscipline,” he said.
He said NACADA has developed guidelines for alcohol and substance use prevention and management in basic education institutions and will push for its implementation.
He said the guidelines detail recommended procedures in managing incidents involving alcohol, tobacco and drug use in learning institutions which includes counseling, treatment and support.
Okioma spoke at English Point Marina in Mombasa during a training workshop for NACADA officials conducted by Peterson Integrated Communications Ltd.
A NACADA survey on the status of drugs and substance abuse commissioned in June 2018 which covered 3,307 pupils from 177 primary schools from class five to eight in 25 counties revealed various issues.
One was that the average age of onset of at least one drug or substance of abuse is 11 years. Additionally, the survey exposed tobacco, prescription drugs and alcohol in that order as the most widely available drugs among the young learners.
He said previous surveys concentrated in secondary schools but as the age of drug addicts continued to come down, they were forced to carry out surveys in primary schools saying an early preventative intervention is required.
Okioma at the same time urged the mainstream media to voice concerns about the rate of illegal drug use by primary and secondary school students. He challenged the media and journalists to continue creating awareness on the disastrous effects of illicit drug menace in the society.
He said the disastrous consequences of young people abusing drugs cannot be fathomed and called on all stakeholders to help stop the dangerous trend. He said social media posts from peers and other teenagers may glorify the use of alcohol and drugs, as it is often portrayed in a positive light.
“The education stakeholders and the media need to play a more active role in stemming the tide by increasing awareness about the detrimental effects of drug addiction in our schools” he said.
On his part, Peter Mutie, the Executive Director and CEO of Peterson Integrated Communications Ltd, urged the NACADA personnel to be proactive in fighting the drug menace in the society.
Mutie said NACADA should monitor social media sites so as to effectively monitor drug use and abuse and abuse trends in the society.
He said by scanning the social media environment, NACADA would be able to get the clues about the dynamics of use, misuse and abuse among the youth and potentially identify changing patterns.
By Hussein Abdullahi