Pubdate: Tue, 28 Oct 2008
Source: Herald, The (South Africa)
Copyright: 2008 The Herald
Author: Dineo Matomela
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)
Bookmark: (Youth)


"Drugs are a catalyst for a number of social ills at our schools,
including Aids, violence, crime and  suicide and we have decided to
identify their use among  our pupils."

These are the words of Kholiswa Mgaba, of drug and substance abuse
management in the national education department, during the first of
a two-day training  programme and implementation of a drug policy at
mostly  "high risk schools" yesterday.

"We started training teachers here because we know that drug abuse at
schools is a problem more than other parts of the province," she said.

Fifty teachers and principals of Port Elizabeth from 25 schools with
drug use problems among pupils were trained at the Pine Lodge yesterday.

"We love the pupils and our approach to drug testing is that of
restorative justice, not a punitive type of approach. We are
preaching prevention, awareness and education.

"We are not doing random tests but voluntary tests. We will call the
parents before the testing pupils," Mgaba  said.

In cases where teachers and principals were not able to assist pupils
with drug problems, they would be referred for monitoring.

The health departments, correctional services, safety and liaison,
and the police would be also involved in assisting pupils.

The teachers and principals received a free kit comprising a manual,
gloves, urine test and an indicator.

School safety unit co-ordinator and a provincial education member in
the Eastern Cape, Cecilia Osei-Agyakwa, said pupils used drugs
because they thought it was cool.

"However, the pupils infringe on the rights of others to learn when
they attend school under the influence of drugs.

"We think that most pupils are experimenting and don't have a support
system at home, and if we identify the addicts we will refer them to
where they can get help.

"There are 6000 in the province and we are two school safety
co-ordinators in the Eastern Cape. We can't  train the schools at the
same time.

"The training will be ongoing in other schools in King William's
Town, East London and Mthatha districts,"  said Osei-Agyakwa.

Kama Primary School principal Nobantu Olifant, who was at the
training, said the drug problem picked up among Grade 7 pupils
towards the end of the year.

"The pupils usually eat jah soup, especially towards the end of the
year," she said.

Olifant said jah soup was a combination of soup and 

David Livingstone High School teacher Shane Gobey welcomed free drug
screening tests saying that the kits were expensive for schools.

Eastern Cape education department spokesman Loyiso Pulumani said they
were the first (province) in the country to secure services of the
national facilitator  and the co-ordinator, which were available on a
"first  come, first served" basis.

Pulumani said: "We are the first (province) to secure services of
these people for the training of all schools' representatives.

"The free drug screening test is a start for useful intervention.
It's about trying to step up preventative measures.

He said that according to section 8(a) of the South African Schools
Act of 1996, drug testing in schools would be "implemented with due
regard to human dignity,  privacy and the right to property of
learners  concerned".
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin