Students And Youth Working on reproductive Health Action Team (SAYWHAT) and the Farming Community Educational Trust (FACET) have noted with grave concern the spike in drug and substance abuse cases amongst school going children and young people across the board.
Reports of the recent expulsion of eight (8) girls from Dominican Convent High School over the allegations of violating the school’s drug policy are very distressing.
In a different case, a video with a school going girl child clad in school uniform has gone viral on social media where an unidentified man is seen exchanging what appeared to be a cigarette which many have speculated as a harmful drug. The incident has been confirmed to have happened in Harare recently.
Another video of a boy child who passed out at an unnamed school after allegedly consuming different types of alcohol is also doing the rounds on social media. While we have established that this particular incident happened sometime last year, it points to a serious decay of our collective child protection responsibility as a society.
The highlighted cases are a drop in the ocean as we believe that a number of young people have been condemned to drug and substance abuse by various circumstances. These include peer pressure, idleness, unemployment and socio-economic related challenges. It becomes a duty of every societal member to protect our children from being destroyed by drugs.
Medical findings across the globe established that young people who persistently abuse drugs and other substances often experience an array of problems that include poor performance in class, health related problems such as mental health, and poor peer relationships which ultimately result in all forms of gender-based violence and a range of criminal activities. All this have a direct negative impact on the cognitive development of our children.
The fight to end HIV and AIDS may not be won with drug and substance threat currently manifesting among young people’s circles. Indulging in drug and substance abuse leads to reckless and un-informed health choices that leave at most the girl child at the receiving end. Unwanted pregnancies and the spread of HIV and other STIs become a common problem.
We would like to jointly appeal to the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and other law enforcement agencies to leave no stone unturned in pursuing and apprehending all suppliers of illegal drugs and substances that end up in the hands of our children.
The government of Zimbabwe and parliament have a duty to rigorously reform current drug laws and come up with a comprehensive legislation that govern the procurement and distribution of drugs in the country. The available Dangerous Drugs Act, Chapter 15, and The Criminal Code Chapter 9:23 section 56 was developed primarily to govern and prevent drug trafficking and diversion of controlled drugs. Hence, there is need of a more focused drug legislation that allows drug abuse survivors to seek help without fear of criminilisation and facing other penalties.
The civil society world should equally share the burden by scaling up comprehensive drug and substance awareness campaigns in a captivating manner that attract young people. Civil society organizations should form partnerships with all relevant entities including the police, parliament and the government. A collective action carried out in a systematic way will eventually make a difference.
SAYWHAT would like to advice parents and guardians to be always on the lookout for the earliest signs of drug and substance abuse so as to immediately reach out for assistance. Our toll-free Call Centre can be accessed at any time by dialing 577. We are available to assist young people getting rehabilitation and counselling services.