A number of schools in the Sarah Baartman district in the Eastern Cape are fighting substance abuse. The district has one of the highest levels of fatal alcohol syndrome.
The scourge of alcohol and substance abuse is now spilling over into junior schools, affecting the development and schooling careers of the youth.
Dumi a Grade 6 pupil is one of the young and talented learners, who have fallen prey to addictive drugs.
A Grade 6 leaner says people have tried to tell him to stop, but although he knows it’s wrong, he cannot fight his addiction.
His favourite subject is maths, but he is struggling and wants to get help.
“I know it’s wrong and my mom tells me. I still meet up with friends and we smoke before school. I know alcohol and drugs are bad, but sometimes I feel it’s my chest I can smoke what I wants.”
His mother is devastated by his behaviour.
Molly says: “The drugs have changed him he is cheeky, he will smoke before school and its affecting him at school. He is cheeky at school too, and he just doesn’t listen anymore.”
Cannabis is the primary drug of abuse by people younger than 20.
Pupils in the area said they experiment more with alcohol and weed, mainly because they feel it is “cool”.
Two years ago, this particular school had a problem with four pupils using substances or coming to school drunk. In 2017 it rose to 19 pupils and now its 29 pupils.
The pupils identified by teachers are between grades 4-7 both girls and boys.
Principal Zilindile Tambo says:”They respond by saying they want or they do it for enjoyment sometimes to laugh at us teachers. Sometimes they use it as a stimulus.”
The Social department has formed partnerships with the department of education and health to deal with these societal woes.
The department will hold parental workshops; deploy social workers whom will visit schools twice a month and help rehabilitate those that need it.
The department says adverts portraying social drinking as attractive, is a catalyst for youth to start the bad habit.
Hopefully, a national programme aimed at educating the youth on the effects of alcohol consumption, will assist in decreasing the number of youths who over-consume.