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The painful reality about drug abuse in Kenyan universities

By Hashtag reporters | Updated Thu, April 13th 2017 at 10:49 GMT +3

Peddlers are progressively devising ways of making it easier for students to access drugs. They, for instance, provide their houses located near campuses as safe havens for students to use the drugs and receive orders and payments via their mobile phones. The dealers know every nook and cranny of the campus neighbourhoods and have established good relationships with students and other residents who watch out for the police and tip them off. If and when caught, the peddlers easily bribe their way to freedom and continue operating unhindered.

These dealers find easy customers in students whose lives are in varying states of social flux — from naive and impressionable freshmen who have newly broken free from their parents’ control to frustrated seniors who have failed to secure internships. They sell the drugs to many users in small quantities for maximum profits. “They make good money since a 100g bag of heroin can go for upwards of Sh3,000,” said a student familiar with the peddlers’ dealings.

Drug parties

Once the peddlers become known among drug-abusing students, they get invited to all parties and even begin making deliveries at small fees. As orders for their stash soar, they identify students who serve as delivery boys to help them meet the growing demand. High on the proceeds of the business, they spend most of their time organising drug parties and orgies where attendees partake hard drugs, which often include heroin, cocaine and meth.

“A party is not a party without drugs because we can listen to music at clubs or at home, but we cannot abuse the drugs there,” a university student confesses smoking bhang at the parties.

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Abdi, a security guard at one of the universities in Nairobi says: “Parties where drugs are abused are frequent at the beginning of every semester since there’s little coursework assigned to students.” These parties invariably commence on Thursday night, that time when the tension of the study week gets eclipsed by a restive desire to get wild, and continue long into the weekend, with the party-going students suspending all the care in the world.

“Unfortunately, most of the parties end in fights and other ugly incidents such as rape,” said the security guard.

Indeed, a police officer at Central Police Station in Nairobi noted that Saturday mornings witness many reports of rape cases from campus students as a result of drug-fuelled Friday parties, a trend that underscores the enormity of the problem.

In some universities, good-looking girls and boys use their looks and bodies to cut deals with drug dealers in exchange for sexual favours. Admired by fellow students, they move through campus hostels making deliveries for the drug pushers, earning as much as Sh10,000 a week.

Untouchables

Though a number of universities have guards who frisk students supposedly to check for drugs as they enter the institutions’ compounds, the guards are easily compromised by the drug-dealing students. Some even brag to fellow students that they are untouchable within the school premises, enticing even more peers into helping them to grow the business.

The business is lucrative. Some students begin dealing just enough to cover their own addiction, but as they pocket the profits of the trade, their appetites grow and the business flourishes. That is until they begin falling out and fighting over the proceeds of the illicit trade.

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Unable to involve the law or the school administration for fear of being arrested or being branded a ‘snitch’, they take matters in their own hands, resulting in vicious confrontations that at times lead to death.

Maseno University exposed

Fred Matiang’i speaking during the opening of an induction workshop for newly appointed public university council members at Simba Lodge in Naivasha highlighted that the open use of drugs in public universities is now a threat to national security.

The CS singled out Maseno University as one of the institutions plagued by the drug business menace.

Investigations by Hashtag reveal that the drug menace at Maseno University precincts is real with students abusing banned substances openly, even in their hostels, without fear; a trend that has seen a sharp increase in indiscipline cases coupled with deadly attacks and fights among its students.

Worryingly, bhang and a brew called “Simba Waragi”, are reportedly smuggled into the country from neighbouring Uganda through the Busia border where unscrupulous business people conceal large quantities of the drugs in sacks of maize, fruit and vegetable consignments ready for distribution.

One of the main depot points is Luanda market, which coincidentally boasts the largest number of mad people in the country, two kilometres away from Maseno University. From our investigation, most of the bhang is sold by peddlers who act ‘mad’ to avoid raising suspicion.

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“You can buy drugs in the same manner you buy sugar from a shop. There is no fear as the police are also involved in the business. The trade is secretive and well familiarised with the police who provide immunity of arrest,” says a source who refused to be named.

The source explains that business is booming with profits of Sh5, 000 expected for a bhang load worth Sh2, 000 sold. Students buy bhang for as low as Sh20 and Sh50 depending on the quality and flavour. “Simba Waragi”, on the other hand, has taken the area by storm because it is cheap, packed in polythene sachets, selling for between Sh25 and Sh30 depending on customer loyalty.

So popular is this drink that it has killed the once dominant Chang’aa business in the area.

 

The brew believed to be manufactured by Premier Distilleries in Uganda is sold to students at specific eating points and by its peddlers in forest areas around the University and Maseno School and at the famous “Backstreet” in Maseno Township. At ‘Backstreet’ where all ills hatch, our team noted a well-known police officer in uniform sharing the drinks with students at noon.

As expected, business thrives most when students are in session especially during events such as Mr/Miss Maseno where profits are multiplied. When Hashtag undercover reporters visited two of Maseno hostel rooms this past Saturday evening, they discovered students run the illegal business 24/7 and are identified by unique names such as Daktari.

Students have well demarcated smoking zones behind the hostels with some preferring to smoke in their rooms. “Medicine students especially prefer buying a flavoured type of bhang which conceals their abuse allowing them to comfortably smoke at their rooms. Even female students are our good customers but fear buying directly from us preferring to use their male counterparts as conduits instead.” one student peddler confided.

Drug wars

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The trade is not without its dangers. Last year, a student was brutally murdered in Nyawita area by a man who is believed to have been a drug kingpin in what emerged as a deal gone sour. Matters went south when the good ‘earner’ for the businessman had all his belongings torched by students unhappy with his dealings.

Those newly enrolled into drug abuse are not allowed to buy the drugs on their own until their loyalty is ascertained. They, therefore, rely on close associates to help them access the drugs.

“No one sits somewhere and decides to start using hard drugs, you have to be introduced by a friend who has access to suppliers” says another source, a student who spends almost all his time at ‘backstreet’ a popular place in Maseno.

Apart from students’ killings and dropping out of campus due to drug addiction, Hashtag learnt of two recent incidences point to heavy drug use. A source close to the top administration reveals that a disorderly and drunk student recently stormed the Vice Chancellor office screaming that he had been sent by God to pray for the institution’s top man on a weekend. He had to be dragged out of the office.

In yet another incident, a student walked into the institution’s dispensary demanding for bed rest. In the ward room, he found water and proceeded to bathe with his clothes on.

Rehabilitation hope alive

Shem Wanyama, a fourth-year student of communication and community development at Daystar University, abused drugs for three years and quit in 2014 after becoming a born-again Christian.

Shem was introduced to abusing drugs during the second semester of his freshman year when he shifted residence to living off-campus.

He consistently used and abused drugs until he was suspended from school after his misconduct exceeded the university’s probation limit, which cost him the support of his sponsor and sent his parents into despair.

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“After I got kicked out of school, I got desperate and sold everything I had to raise money to sake of my cravings for drugs, especially alcohol, cigarettes and bhang,” Shem confessed.

Thankfully, Shem managed to haul himself from the abyss of drug abuse and currently chairs Daystar’s Compassion and Care Centre, where he counsels students undergoing what he went through.

Shem mentors fellow students and organises events where guest speakers such as showbiz personalities are invited to entertain and advise students.

“We advise students to steer clear of vices such as drug abuse even while having fun, since years lost now will never be recovered,” Shem advises.

He calls for an urgent no-holds-barred intervention by concerned experts to address the ticking time bomb of university students getting lured into drug dealing, an odd career choice for society’s supposedly best brains.



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