Pubdate: Tue, 22 Jun 2004
Source: Daily Nation (Kenya)
Copyright: 2004 Nation Newspapers
Author: David Aduda



One in every three of Kenya's high school students takes alcohol.

Another 8.3 per cent smoke cigarettes, while almost one in every 10
(9.1 per cent ) chews miraa. About 3 per cent smoke bhang.

These are some of the statistics tabled at the annual conference of
secondary school headteachers that started in Nairobi yesterday.

Releasing the figures, the acting co-ordinator of the National Agency
for the Campaign Against Drugs Abuse (Nacada), Mrs Roselyne Onyuka,
said students also took hard drugs, including heroin, cocaine, mandrax
and tranquillisers.

"Our surveys reveal that, although some students are initiated into
this anti-social behaviour when they join secondary schools, college
or university, quite a number start abusing drugs in primary school,
some as young as eight or 10 years," she said.

Mrs Onyuka, a former senior deputy director of education in charge of
the Secondary Division, urged headteachers to be vigilant and detect
students abusing drugs. Abuse of substances was caused by peer
pressure, availability, family problems, depression, anxiety and poor
law enforcement, the meeting heard.

The official said drug abuse, poverty and Aids were some of the causes
of school indiscipline.

She noted: "The tragedy is that these are mutually reinforcing. Drug
abuse leads, among other things, to risky behaviour that gives rise to
Aids, which impoverishes families."

Drugs induced violent behaviour and led to poor academic performance
and poor health.

"A perusal of school discipline books shows offences such as smoking,
drinking, selling and buying drugs and many students have been caught
swallowing, sniffing and smoking various types of drugs," she added.

To prevent drug and substance abuse, the official said, parents and
communities needed to join hands with teachers to counsel students.

Parents should discuss the dangers of drugs with their children
because lack of correct information exposed youngsters to dangerous

Schools were asked to identify drug peddlers and bring them to book.
They should also set up clubs and provide recreation to keep students
out of mischief.

Religious organisations, too, must step in. They should educate their
congregations on drug and substance abuse and organiseactivities to
keep young people busy, especially during weekends and school holidays.

Another Nacada official, Mr S. Simiyu, highlighted the strategies
being used to fight drug abuse, including an independent police unit
to crack down on drug trafficking.

The Kenya Secondary Schools Headteachers Association conference, which
brings together 4,000 members, will be officially opened today by
Education minister George Saitoti at the Moi International Sports
Centre, Kasarani.

Association chairman Peterson Muthathai said the meeting would discuss
critical issues in secondary education, including the controversial
bursary scheme, insurance for students and school property, teacher
recruitment and deployment and discipline.

Nation Media Group chief executive Wilfred Kiboro will give the
keynote address. The Group is one of the sponsors.

The teachers are expected to push for bursary funds to be sent
directly to schools, instead of through constituency committees. They
say the committees take long to approve applications.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin