SECTIONS

Revealed: How drug lords are using students as peddlers

By JOHN KARIUKI

NAIROBI, KENYA: Drug cartels have infiltrated schools and colleges and are using students as conduits for their deadly merchandise. The Counties has now unearthed how the dealers lure, hook and exploit students in this game of death.

Abel (not his real name), a total orphan, had a prolonged illness that stalked him throughout his secondary school life in a school in Laikipia County. For three years he was part of chain that trafficked drugs between Nyahururu and Nairobi right under the noses of the police and his teachers.

He would get out of school frequently, travel to Nairobi to replenish his medication and to see a specialist. His routine was noted by some drug peddlers in Nyahururu town who turned it to their advantage.

 Abel’s apparent innocent look, coupled with his sparkling school uniform was enough to fool everyone. That he was street-smart and could get around Nairobi easily was all the drug lords needed for their business.

And for three years, Abel would fool everybody that his regular trips to Nairobi were purely on medical grounds. His orphan status made his teachers sympathetic and no one asked questions about his regular travels. Like in a movie, he  was the perfect undercover agent.

And when he finished his secondary course, Abel confessed to a stunned teacher about his little secret. Whenever he would leave school, Abel would first travel to Nyahururu town and call a certain number. The person on the other end would direct him to a particular place where handlers would meet him. They would give him fare back to school and reward him handsomely.

In some cases he would be given directions away from the city where he would drop off the merchandise. It was easy. All they did was exchange bags (they were often similar) and voila, the strangers would melt away.

Living like a king

Abel confessed to living large in school with pocket money amounting to as much as Sh3,000 per drop of the cargo. And he would make two or three such drops every month. At some point he began using the drugs to the approval of the network. He had become more “trustworthy” in their business jargon. Abel has since been fully rehabilitated from the drug addiction and severed all ties with this drugs ring.

The drugs menace has taken a stranglehold in schools with peddlers exploiting this vast market. Typically, the cartels recruit a few students who in turn push the drugs to their fellow schoolmates with a cut on the profits or free supplies for their own use.

Milka (not her real name), a teacher in Nakuru County, says the drug lords first establish regular contacts with students in selected schools.

“I once busted a case where five students were used to smuggle in a mobile phone by dismembering it and carrying the parts apiece,” she says.

So, the phone battery, casing, keypad and SIM card were separately hidden in cocoa, blue band, sugar and other supplies. But when safely in school the phone was reassembled back.

“The students used a rogue cook to charge the phone and they would make calls to their contacts at 3am when there was no teacher around,” says Milka.

The students, all girls, would take turns during the day to carry  the phone around in their bras! After getting instructions from their handlers, one of the girls would feign sickness, go out to hospital and bring in supplies of drugs, which they would sell to other students.

Use medicinal bottles

“And the mode of sneaking in the drugs was quite creative,” says Milka. The students would get empty medicinal bottles and stuff the contraband in them.

“And since they had permission to go to hospital, nobody would check inside the medicinal bottles when they came back,” says Milka. Until one them defected and confessed.

Patrick, a teacher in one school in Nyeri County, concurs that students have been upping their game of sneaking drugs in school. Often, the students come back to school on opening day uncharacteristically early before the teachers have assembled a vetting team,” says Patrick. Another trick is to scout around the school and drop the drugs by the fence where they retrieve later after going through the normal checking in system.

Patrick warns that even the first aid box, carried by scouts and girl guides on all outings could be a conduit for contraband including drugs and should be checked when students return to school.

Cynthia, a teacher in Uasin Gishu, says school girls often stuff drugs inside packets of sanitary towels and in the pockets of their bikers where no teacher would check. Others carry along stuffed dolls for key holders and drugs can easily be hidden inside.

Cynthia reveals that she once dealt with alcohol which would be sneaked to school in detergent bottles!

“Some girls would thoroughly wash the empty detergent bottles and put in neat liquor which would pass under our noses on opening day, until a conscientious student informed us,” she says.

According to Cynthia, part of the problem of drug threat in school is non cooperative parents. “Recently, a student in my school was suspected of abusing drugs and sent home to bring her parent, but the parent came with a long medical report from a leading Nairobi hospital that gave the girl a clean bill of health,” she says.

The parent dared the school authorities to produce evidence! Daniel Wangenye, the Laikipia Kuppet executive secretary warns that the drug menace is getting worse in schools. He attributes it to teachers being ill equipped at spotting symptoms of drug abuse amongst pupils and laxity by law enforcers.

“Nacada should team up with teachers’ unions in fighting this menace instead of basing all their operations in Nairobi,” says Wangenye.

Tough action from police Wangenye laments that frequently known drug peddlers who wreak havoc in school get arrested, but go scot free for lack of evidence.

“Like the rape cases desks in police stations, some law enforcers should be trained in handling children drug cases in every policed station,” Wangenye suggests. This is a crime that requires sensitive investigations like rape and the presence of drugs in the pupils’ blood and their positive identification of peddlers who supply them should be enough evidence to convict the suspected pushers,” he says.

“We must think out of the box for ways of stemming this slide, or else we are bound to witness entire generations of youths slowly turn into cabbages,” he adds. He appeals to school administrators to enlist local communities, the provincial administration, the church and other stakeholders in policing their perimeter fences and immediate neighbourhoods where drug peddlers often operate from.