21 September 2017

South Africa: Minister Debbie Schäfer On Learners Testing Positive for Drugs

press release

Minister Schafer concerned as 66.7% of learners tested for drugs were positive

Recent statistics show the extent of substance abuse by our youth in some of our communities. Particularly concerning is that this problem extends not only to high school learners, but primary school learners too.

During the first half of 2017, a number of drug tests were conducted in various schools where there has been reasonable suspicion that learners are under the influence of illegal substances.

Tests were only conducted on learners who had already been suspected of substance abuse.

A total of 360 primary school learners from 36 schools were tested for drugs. Of these, 229 tested positive. A total of 605 high school learners from 17 schools were tested for drugs - of these 415 tested positive.

I am shocked at these results.

Safe and secure learning environments are essential if we are to ensure that quality education is delivered. It is imperative that our schools remain drug free.

It is therefore vital that parents, community members and learners are aware of the programmes and support mechanisms on offer to deal with such a scourge.

As primary caregivers, parents play the most important role in identifying drug use by their children. Parents are encouraged to be vigilant and to keep the channels of communication with their children open so that they can pick up on the use of illegal substances early.

Most drug use takes place at home or within the community. But, the sad reality is that some learners do come to school in possession of or under the influence of illegal drugs.

This has potentially serious consequences, not only for their own education, but for that of others, as well as the safety of learners and teachers.

It is therefore not uncommon for the WCED to call on SAPS and/or City Law Enforcement to conduct random search and seizure operations at schools as a security measure and to deter learners from bringing weapons and narcotics onto school premises.

Schools also conduct drug testing. SASA contains elaborate procedures in Section 8A, subsection (1) to (14) and regulates the circumstances and conditions under which random search and seizure and drug testing in schools may be conducted and dealt with.

If the learner has tested positive for alcoholic liquor or illegal drugs, a discussion must be held with the parent so that he or she may understand the consequences of the use of alcoholic liquor or illegal drugs.

The principal may, if the parent so requests, refer the learner to a rehabilitation institution for drug counselling. Only the learner and his or her parents must be informed about the outcome of the alcohol or drug test. The identity of the learner may not be revealed, except to his or her parents.

Educators are trained in the legislation and policies pertaining to search and seizures and on how to conduct drug tests when there is reasonable suspicion or a request from parents/ guardians that their child(ren) be tested.

The Safe Schools substance abuse programme aims to capacitate schools in dealing with learners under the influence or at risk of using a substance. The training programme includes basic information on drug detection techniques, peer counselling and specialised fields of drug control.

The key goal of the programme is to capacitate our educators with the tool of drug testing so as to ensure that learners who experiment with substances are detected early and that they will be placed in developmental programmes to address the abuse of substances.

The substance abuse programme also forms part of after-school and holiday programs. Schools attending substance abuse training receive drug testing kits from the Safe Schools Division.

The WCED also has a number of curriculum programmes that focus on drug education. Drug education is included in the Learning Area of Life Orientation in the Revised National Curriculum Statement for Grades R to 9 and the National Curriculum for FET. This ensures that learners acquire age-and context-appropriate knowledge and skills, in order for them to adopt and maintain life skills and behaviour that will protect them from drug use, misuse and dependency.

Schools and institutions are also encouraged, as far as possible, to involve outside organizations specialising in drug education and intervention and other associated programmes to augment the education provided by the school-based educators.

We are fully aware of the challenges around drug use and abuse by learners of school going age and work closely with partners in the Western Cape Government and civil society on dealing with substance abuse among young people in our province.

The WCED has a hotline - 0800 45 46 47 that learners and parents can call for counseling support and assistance. We also advise parents on the closest institution where they can receive further support and rehabilitation.

The WCG has a special website dedicated to drug awareness at: http://druginfo.westerncape.gov.za

So we are doing our best to create awareness around the dangers of drug use and abuse. But this problem is symptomatic of the society in which we live. We need parents also to play their role in limiting this abuse. How can we teach children who are abusing drugs?

There is support available for learners and parents and I encourage them to use the all available resources so that together we can try combat the scourge of drug abuse that is plaguing our communities.

Issued by: Western Cape Education

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