Alcohol and drug abuse among children has been attributed to their parents' behaviour. The findings of a survey, contained in a report dubbed 'Status of Drugs and Substance Abuse among Primary School Pupils in Kenya', directly attribute substance abuse among children, some as young as four years old, to their parents' and guardians' lifestyles.
The survey, released this week, also reveals a worrying drop in the age at which children are beginning to engage in drug and substance abuse away from school.
Children as young as four are getting hooked on drugs and alcohol, which are accessible to them at home, during school holidays and over the weekends especially during family outings.
The children who participated in the survey revealed that apart from their peers and those selling drugs at kiosks and structures near schools, other sources of the drugs they have sampled were their homes and entertainment joints during family outings.
"Pupils from families where both or one parent or guardian use drugs or abuse substances were more likely to use drugs or abuse substances as well as those accompanying parents to events where alcohol is served and also those who reported that alcohol was available in their homes," the survey shows.
The report further states that role models are highly likely to influence children's behaviour, including the use of drugs. Consequently, shows the report, the pupils whose role models are parents, celebrities, teachers and even parents who abuse drugs are more likely to be negatively influenced by them.
The survey was conducted by the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (Kippra) and commissioned by the National Authority for the Campaign against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (Nacada) for use in the formation of policy guidelines to reduce the exposure and prevalence of alcohol and drugs among children.
More than 3,000 pupils from 177 randomly selected government schools across 25 counties between classes Five and Eight were interviewed in the survey.
According to the findings, the average Kenyan child makes his first attempt at drugs at the age of 11, even though in some cases, children get their first exposure at the tender age of four.
Some of the most accessible drugs include tobacco-based intoxicants, prescription drugs, miraa/muguka and alcohol, all of which the sampled students claimed to have been used by their peers due to their ease of access.
The findings show that 17 per cent of primary school pupils had been in constant use of at least one drug or substance of abuse, seven per cent were reported to be on prescription drugs, three per cent tobacco and alcohol, two per cent miraa/muguka and one per cent inhalants and heroine.
"The current use of bhang and cocaine among primary school children was less than one per cent," the report stated.
While the age of consent for alcohol and cigarette consumption in the country is 18 years, the report indicates that pupils are increasingly consuming alcohol, tobacco, khat and bhang.
A study conducted in 2017 by Nacada showed the median age of initiation to tobacco products was 10 while the minimum was eight years.
Alcohol lifetime prevalence among pupils was ranked highly in Murang'a, Uasin Gishu and Bungoma counties while that of bhang use was found to be prevalent in Uasin Gishu, Narok and Kilifi.
Tobacco lifetime prevalence was rated at six per cent across all sampled schools with the counties with the highest prevalence being Murang'a, Kisii and Nairobi at 15, 11.5 and 9.8 per cent respectively.
Pupils from Kakamega revealed that they get alcohol (chang'aa and busaa) from home, since a majority of their parents brew at home.
Nacada Chairman Julius Githiri said the findings shall be used to guide the authority's programmes and interventions.
"We need to get away from denial. We have been in assuming that nothing is happening with our primary school pupils. That is why we have launched Nacada Mashinani," he said.
Interior Chief Administrative Secretary William Kang'ethe Thuku said county governments must align their functions to national laws by ensuring that no liquor selling points are licensed to operate within 300 metres of any school compound.