WINDHOEK – A random drug test at a Windhoek school unearthed a shocking reality – 24 learners in a class of 30 pupils tested positive for using drugs.
The Minister of Education David Namwandi made the shattering revelation to fellow parliamentarians yesterday in the National Assembly when he delivered a ministerial statement on “the prevalence of alcohol and drug abuse in schools”. Drug and alcohol usage among school learners has led to alarming “instances of violence between learners” with cases of “uncontrolled levels of undisciplined learners, gangsterism, fighting between learners and even killings” at school grounds, Namwandi said.
“It is with an element of alarm that I rise to inform parliament that we have an elephant in the kraal,” said Namwandi, expressing grave concern about the use of drugs among schoolchildren and called on parents to keep a close eye on their children.
The school where the random tests took place is in Khomas Region and were done by the police. Namwandi however withheld the name of the school, but pointed out that the abuse of drugs by schoolchildren has become a serious concern to the Ministry of Education. He said incidents of drug abuse are rampant in urban schools although schools in rural areas are not exempt.
The Khomas Region, Namwandi said, has seen an increasing number of learners excessively indulging in drugs like dagga and cocaine which he described as a worrisome scenario. “Such learners are normally noticeable as the regularly display violent behaviour towards fellow learners and teachers,” Namwandi said.
It has also been noted that many learners are buying drugs with the pocket money they receive from their parents. “In such cases parents have become unknowingly supporters of unbecoming habits and behaviour of their children. Even sadder is the reality that many of the learners steal money from their parents to buy drugs and some even resort to violence inside and outside homes to sustain their habit or addiction,” said Namwandi.
The scourge of alcohol and drug abuse in Namibia has long been cited as one of Namibia’s biggest developmental hurdles and has been closely linked to domestic violence, poverty and the spread of HIV and AIDS.
Namwandi said that from the evidence produced by the police during the random tests, it was clear that action has to be taken to remedy the situation. He believes that the number of deaths, road accidents and cases of gender-based violence is a clear testimony that drugs and alcohol have taken root in the Namibian society and also in schools.
He added that the ministry fully understands the gravity of the problem and will commit to cooperate with the Ministry of Home Affairs, non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders to develop sensitization programmes to be taught in schools through the life skills subject.
Namwandi also appealed for the establishment of drug and alcohol abuse rehabilitation centres to provide an avenue for Namibians who have been caught up in such misfortune, to turn their backs on their addiction.
The public is also urged to report the drug dealers who gather innocent young people on street corners and enclose them in the net of addition. “Make sure you know where your child is and with whom your child spends time,” Namwandi concluded.
By Tonateni Shidhudhu