MANZINI – Some private schools in the Manzini region have sought the assistance of government and the police following high incidents of drug and alcohol abuse among pupils.
Last week, about 15 private schools gathered for a workshop held at the Lamvelase Complex, where such issues were discussed with the Ministry of Education and Training under the Guidance and Counselling Unit, Ministry of Health, as well as the Manzini Regional Education Office.
The Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS) also confirmed to have received reports from more than 10 private schools, which had contacted and requested their services after pupils had become violent due to alleged drug or alcohol abuse.
“Besides attending to such cases, the REPS also reaches out to the schools and teaches them about alcohol and drug abuse,” Chief Police Information and Communications Officer, Superintendent Phindile Vilakati said.
She added that in order to prevent long term issues with drug and alcohol abuse among pupils or teens, education was necessary and early interventions and treatment were also important for anyone already suffering from such issues.
During the conference last week, it was discussed that drug and alcohol abuse in private schools around the region was highly-influenced by the attitudes and perceived norms of peers among pupils.
It was gathered that most pupils who used drugs regularly did not consistently do well in their studies as such substances affected their attention, memory and ability to learn.
Another issue that was revealed was over-the-counter medicines, especially cough syrup, which most pupils used in some of the local private schools to get high.
“Such medicines are sold directly to any member of the public without any prescription. Such medicines have active ingredients with the potential for misuse at higher-than-recommended dosages. Many pupils have been found with such mixed with some fizzy drinks in their schoolbags and their parents have been contacted.
“This is a general concern for the country, not just private schools. When we find these cough syrups in their bags, we have to contact their parents and REO, which then contacts the police to intervene in such issues,” a head teacher from one of the private schools in Manzini said.
The head teacher added that they were advised not to seize the pupils’ bags or suspend them before contacting the REO. He also revealed that they had also been warned not to administer corporal punishment, as most of these pupils tend to become violent and assault teachers in some of the schools.
Ministry of Education and Training Principal Secretary (PS), Dr Sibongile Mtshali said they did not condone such behaviour from the pupils.
Mtshali said the ministry had drug education programmes to teach pupils about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. “Pupils who smoke, drink alcohol and abuse drugs suffer from little concentration during classes.