Illicit substances in schools

Another child has been caught with marijuana in school. This again bring to the fore the discussion about the use of illicit substances by our young people.
In May, the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) swooped down on several schools in Lethem, Region Nine (Upper Takutu–Upper Essequibo) after receiving reports of students selling narcotics in institutions of learning. Fortunately, CANU officers were able to apprehend three adults who facilitated the supply of the illegal substance to the students.
This issue might have come as a surprise to many, and is extremely worrying. What is clear is that some young people have and are being exposed to a drug that also affects the brain, and one that also has reportedly been used as a date rape trap.
As this newspaper had previously said, sadly, drug use in some schools is not new. Unfortunately, young minds are involved in cigarette smoking and consumption of alcohol to other activities that are far more harmful. Some are bold enough to capture the effects through unsavoury activities they engaged in afterwards, evident from videos that circulate. Some time ago, CANU’s Deputy Head had said that looking at the videos, especially those involving young girls, is really worrying for society.
Clearly, this most recent bust will now attract attention, and the expectation would be for the implementation of measures to eliminate this illegal practice, especially within the school system. This will not be easy. Law enforcement will have to up the ante in all aspects, including intelligence, to holistically deal with this situation, which has a frightening potential to become a wider problem.
While the teachers in the school must be commended for making the discovery, it raises concerns over how long it might have been ongoing; whether the schools were aware, or whether they have the capacity to aid in identifying drug sales and use within.
Another reality is that young people will experiment, unfortunately, with harmful things. This is where the Education Ministry will have to be more innovative to derive mechanisms to build capacity among teachers, so that they can be able to spot any possible sign. Once again, this will not be easy, given the innovativeness of those involved. That aside, there must be some signs, including changes in students’ behavioral pattern and performances, depending upon the extent of usage. The teachers will need to be supported in this fight, and it may very well demand a relooking of policies at a higher level for the implementation of effective combating mechanisms. This would need some urgency, given that some young people, who represent the future, are involved. It will take the involvement of all: parents, teachers, the Ministry and law enforcement.
Crucial is sustained education on the harmful effects of drug use, for which the media should be encouraged to be a part. It has to be national, given what’s at stake. Maybe this could be the opportunity for the establishment of a structured school monitoring mechanism with specific responsibility. This has been touted before for other reasons, where trained personnel could either be stationed or make visits to schools to gauge any related effects.
This would have to be thoroughly thought out, for there is the possibility teachers could feel that part of their responsibility is being usurped. They generally look for signs that could indicate a shift in behaviour, and try to find a way of having it resolved.
We must, however, commend the collaboration between the Guyana Police Force and the Education Ministry, wherein random searches are being conducted at schools for potential weapons. This now should be extended to illicit substances.