A Grade 12 pupil at Athlone High School was arrested after being found in possession of dagga worth more than R1 500 on Tuesday August 23.
The 17-year-old boy was searched by police during a random search at schools in Athlone.
Police found two packets, each containing 80g of dagga, which retails for about R600 and 16 “bankies” (smaller packets) which sell for R20 each, in his school bag. He was also found with R359 cash.
Sergeant Zita Norman, spokesperson for Athlone police station, said pupils and premises of the schools in the area, which have been marked as problematic, because of cases of drug possession, are being randomly searched.
The matric pupil appeared in the Athlone Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday August 24 on a charge>of possession of drugs, and the case was postponed to Friday October 14.
He has since been suspended from school and is due to face a disciplinary hearing tomorrow, Thursday September 1.
When asked whether the pupil would be allowed to write his final matric exams come October, Howard Mackrill, principal of Athlone High School, said he would be allowed to because he is a first-time offender.
Mr Mackrill said there have been previous cases reported at the school for pupils who were found with drugs in their possession but that the pupil in question was not one of them. He added that it was the first time that a matriculant had been found with drugs.
“The pupil has come so far through the ranks already, the choice he has made is disappointing but we also have to consider the society that the pupils grow up in,” said Mr Mackrill.
Sergeant Norman said the police were trying to eradicate drugs at schools so that it could go back to being a place of learning.
“The merchants are making use of kids and target those who they know need the money at home or who are looking to wear that expensive clothes or a pair of Jordans. We urge parents to take note of their children. If they bring home money or buy new clothes, parents should know that something is wrong if they know that their kids don’t work.
“They must go back to checking their kids’ bags, taking note of their eyes to see whether their pupils are always dilated or red, as well as children who are always using Zambuck for their lips or rubbing Vicks on their noses. They can’t always have the flu,” said Sergeant Norman.
Jessica Shelver, the spokesperson for Education MEC Debbie Schäfer, said the principal of the school may request the assistance of the police if he/she reasonably suspects the presence of a dangerous object, alcoholic or an illegal drug on the school premises or during a school activity.
“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 learner, or the property of any learner, for any dangerous object, alcoholic liquor or illegal drug, if the principal reasonably suspects the presence of a dangerous object, alcoholic liquor or an illegal drug on the school premises or during a school activity,” said Ms Shelver.
According to Ms Shelver the following may be an indication of the presence of illegal drugs and dangerous objects at the school: whistle-blowers informing the principal about their presence, reports from parents, traces of drugs and alcoholic liquor on the school premises, threats of the use of dangerous objects against other learners, injury as a result of the use of such objects, as well as any other reasonable indication.
According to Aziza Kannemeyer, Athlone Community Police Forum chairperson, the schools in Athlone are “completely out of hand.”
“There are heavy drug sales and trades going on at the schools in Athlone. The schools are recruiting premises for gangs in the area. The problem is that the principals of the schools do not report the incidents to the police. I don’t blame the teachers because they are there to educate the pupils. Bad behaviour starts from home,” said Ms Kannemeyer.
“Schools are meant to be a place of discipline, not a dumping ground for parents to drop their children for a few hours. Parents should attend more school meetings so that they know what’s going on. Out of a school of 700 pupils, you will only see about 30 to 40 parents at school meetings,” she added.
Ms Shelver said safe and secure learning environments are essential.
“It is imperative that our schools remain weapon – and drug-free zones. The reality is that some learners do come to school in possession of dangerous objects and illegal drugs. The WCED works closely with partners in the provincial government and civil society in dealing with substance abuse among young people in the province,” she said.
Ruth Fortuin, assistant director at the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, said while judging the pupil as a criminal one also needs to remember that his personal circumstances might have influenced him having to sell drugs at school.
“You need to weigh up the personal circumstances of the child. There might be a lot of pressure on the student from external sources. If he is using the dagga he is doing it to support his habit,” said Ms Fortuin.