Despite being a high school student, Silvestre Munyaneza, was a well-known drug user and dealer around his school for several years in Burera District, Northern Province.
Munyaneza, 19, is a senior six student at Groupe Scolaire (GS) Gitare II located about a kilometre from the Rwanda-Uganda border, in Kagogo Sector.
In an interview with this reporter, he revealed how he became addicted to illicit alcohol consumption and how he found himself in a young drug dealer’s squad.
“It all started the time I entered the school campus; it was in 2014 when I became a drunkard,” he recalled, “I used to drink mainly Kanyanga and many other banned gins with different brand names, I would even smoke cannabis.
“I would come to school drunk with a bottle of Kanyanga which would subsequently lead to insecurity within the school as I used to beat up everyone for no reason,” added Munyaneza.
He, however, attributes the misbehaviour to the bad company he kept on his early days at the high school.
“I met with some classmates with bad habits; we would escape class and go smuggle illicit drugs from Uganda to sell to our fellow students and the surrounding community,” revealed the youngster.
Since Munyaneza and his partners in crime were well known to everyone at the school, members of the Anti-Drug Abuse Club intervened and advised them to give up the vise.
The club, like others in most high schools, was initiated by the national police in partnership with school administration in a move to fight against the use of drugs among students.
“I changed last year when members of the club approached me with a message about the negative impacts of drug abuse,” he noted.
Munyaneza noted that upon giving up on illicit drug abuse and peddling, his level of performance in class improved.
“When I was still addicted to drugs my performance rate in class was below 40 per cent but I now thank God because after giving up the illicit drugs a lot changed as I score up to 75 per cent; my school report speaks for it itself,” he said with a smiling face.
Munyaneza called upon fellow students to heed to the message of fighting against drug abuse and concentrate on their studies instead of joining bad groups who introduce them to dangerous drugs.
“Many young people are subject to peer pressure and influence from bad elements in society. However, the choice is ours to make,” Munyaneza noted.
He also pledged to always work with local officials as well as school administration through the provision of timely information whenever drug dealers show up at school and in the community.
Officials speak out
Félix Harelimana, a teacher who coordinates activities of the Anti-Drug Abuse Club at the school, told The New Times that the club continues to meet expectations by helping to curb drug abuse among students.
“Before this club was created, a number of students were addicted to drugs as we share borders with countries where drugs are not given much attention, thus many children came in class drunk,” he pointed out.
“But, because of the club, students’ performance improved significantly the last two years of its existence, students in the ordinary level as well as in the advanced level attain good grades”.
Dr Irenée Ndayambaje, the Director General of Rwanda Education Board (REB), said that the clubs were instrumental.
“The youth are merely exposed to the coming trend or the 21 century threats including taking alcohol, smoking and all these other vices that they copy as western fashion living model,” he said in a recent interview
“Those clubs need support not only from the school heads, but also from any other education partners,” acknowledged Ndayambaje
The Anti-Drug Abuse Club at Groupe Scolaire de Gitare II and similar clubs in other schools which this newspaper visited noted a common challenge of the lack of documentation which may help the club members to teach their colleagues on drug abuse.
What police say
Police commend the contribution of the Anti-Drug Abuse Clubs in tackling the use of illicit drugs stressing that the clubs are part of community policing groups that include Youth Volunteers in Community Policing.
“Like other community policing groups, these clubs play a crucial role in driving debates on the dangers of illicit drugs in their respective schools and communities,” said Commissioner John Bosco Kabera, the spokesperson of Rwanda National Police.
He said there are hundreds of thousands of young people who already understand the dangers associated with drugs, thanks to these clubs.
Kabera said that to address the issue of scarcity of educative materials for the Anti-Drug Abuse Clubs, Police and their partners, which include the Ministry of Health, continues to reach out to the clubs and Rwandans in general to educate them on dangers of abusing drugs.
Police say there are over 2000 Anti-Drug Abuse Clubs across the country, with the majority in schools.