Drug addiction in school children worrying, let’s reverse ugly trend

The future of every nation falls or rises on the vitality or vulnerability of its youth and Kenya is no exception. This is why the high levels of drug addiction and trafficking among youth, as revealed by a new education sector report, should worry us all.

According to a 2018 drugs and substance abuse report by the Kenyan Institute for Public Research and Analysis, which covered pupils in classes five through eight, children as young as four are already consuming hard drugs.   

The survey, analysed elsewhere in this paper, shows the number of children abusing prescription drugs, alcohol, bhang and cigarettes is ballooning, and some of their trusted handlers are guilty of directly introducing them to the substances.  

In some cases, children easily access drugs from shops and bars near their schools. In the absence of these, matatu touts and chemists become the conduits.

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Shockingly, the most readily available in 12 sampled counties are tobacco, prescription drugs and alcohol. About 4,000 pupils in 200 public primary schools were targeted and the pupil response rates were 82.7 percent in 177 primary schools. We believe those responsible for running of schools should up their game. We would like to remind authorities that if this dangerous trend is allowed, it could snowball into a national crisis.   

Effects of drugs can be disastrous. Besides lowering academic performance, addiction predisposes the youth to increased risks of contracting infections. If unchecked, it could lead to delinquency already being witnessed in urban areas, mainly slums. Enforcement of guidelines on construction of structures, including business premises, near schools must be a priority now. Such structures are the first point of contact with drugs for many pupils leading to chronic addiction.

Government and non-state actors should partner in rolling out a communication strategy that will sensitise parents against risky acts like keeping alcohol and hard drugs at home. We call on NACADA to design better interventions targeting drug refusal skills, assertiveness and self-control skills among pupils. Above all, those guilty, through commission, omission or conspiracy should be made to pay dearly for their roles. This fight calls for concerted efforts from all stakeholders.

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