Drug trafficking at schools raises concerns

The Athlone Community Police Forum (CPF) and the police expressed concern after Spes Bona High School failed to report an incident involving a Grade 9 pupil who threatened to shoot his teacher while under the influence of dagga.

The incident occurred at the Athlone school on Thursday August 11 when the pupil smoked dagga at the school during first interval.

He then threatened to shoot his teacher with a Magnum firearm.

Three other pupils were also suspended on the same day – one in Grade 9, one in Grade 11, and another in Grade 10 – for coming to school under the influence of dagga.

Sergeant Zita Norman, spokes-person for Athlone police station said the incident had not been reported and that such incidents must be reported to the police because the pupil could be charged with intimidation.

CPF chairperson, Aziza Kannemeyer, said Spes Bona High School had been identified as one of several schools on the Cape Flats where incidents of drug abuse were prevalent.

Ms Kannemeyer said the main problem was that principals failed to report the incidents to the police and that, in turn, produced incorrect drug statistics at schools.

She said intervening in drug-related cases at schools was difficult because the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) had their own methodology for dealing with these issues at school.

“The police can only visit the schools and conduct searches if they get a written request from the school principal. The children, however, know that they do not get reported so they continue to trade and use drugs at the schools.

This is unfair, to the pupils, who want to achieve academically because their learning is being disrupted.

“The bigger problem is not the outsiders giving the drugs to pupils to sell – the problem is the pupils who are selling the drugs,” said Ms Kannemeyer.

Edmund Cupido, acting principal of Spes Bona High School, said the school followed the WCED’s instructions and policy regarding drug abuse, assault, and bad behaviour at school.

Ms Kannemeyer also said because the incidents were not being reported, it created an environment for pupils to act the way they did.

“The education department needs to announce that pupils who are found trading drugs and using it at school will be suspended. It should be a must that parents come to the school to speak about it and not just send a family member. The education department must work with SAPS and arrange talks with the pupils where ex-drug addicts or gangsters talk to the pupils about it. They need to explain the consequences to the pupils and that it is bigger than being suspended for a week,” she said.

Ms Kannemeyer added that the parents must play a more active role and that the WCED must keep monitoring the school system.

When asked what the education department was doing about the drug infestation at schools, Jessica Shelver, spokesperson for Education MEC Debbie Schäfer, said when pupils were tested positive for drugs, they were referred to the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (SANCA) for further intervention.

“In some cases, a home visit is conducted by the safety fieldworker, where parents are being engaged. Searches and seizures are being conducted based on an alleged suspicion of substance on schools.

“In terms of section 45A(2)(a) of the Western Cape Provincial School Education Act, the principal or his or her delegate may search any pupil, or the property of any pupil, for any dangerous objects, liquor or illegal drugs, if the principal reasonably suspects the presence of a dangerous object, liquor or an illegal drug on the school premises or during a school activity,” said Ms Shelver.

Ms Shelver added that in terms of the curriculum, drug education was included in the Grades R to 9 life orientation syllabuses and the National Curriculum for Further Education and Training.

“This ensures that pupil 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 organisations specialising in drug education and intervention and other associated programmes to augment the education provided by the school-based educators,” she added.

David Fourie, director of Sanca, said the organisation was more than willing to help the schools with pupils who needed treatment, but that it must be done voluntarily.

“Firstly, the schools need to have a drug policy which is line with the WCED. Then they may refer pupils to Sanca for treatment, but they must do it voluntarily. Their parents must accompany them because we do screenings with the pupil and the parents to check for any background influences,” said Mr Fourie.

He also said the treatment took place over seven to eight weeks, including six to seven sessions, with each session lasting an hour.

Mr Fourie added that while pupils may not be suspended for that amount of time, they can attend both school and treatment because it was only one hour a week.

“At the end of each session, we give the pupil a letter saying that he or she was here. We also do continuous drug screening throughout the process. If we find the pupil’s drug addiction has escalated to a strong addiction we can refer them to an in-patient programme. The parents, however, need to be supportive as well as set strict boundaries and disciplinary measures with their children,” he said.