Parents and teachers have called for more efforts to check drug and alcohol abuse in schools following Monday’s incident in which two students died after taking ethanol. The former students of APPEC School in Kamonyi District allegedly mistook it for local brew (Kanyanga).
Fourteen other students were also rushed to Remera Rukoma Hospital and a local health centre where they were treated and discharged after taking the chemical compound.
It is reported that the students consumed the poisonous substance after a Senior Six student, currently in police custody, smuggled a one-liter bottle from the school chemistry laboratory last Friday.
The student and his classmates had been practicing in the lab in preparation for the upcoming national exams due next month.
In separate interviews with The New Times, parents and teachers said there is a connection between the death of the two students and subsistence abuse in schools.
Drug abuse among students is a serious national problem whose prevention is a job the schools cannot perform alone, they said.
Eric Mugisha, the director of GS Bumba, in Rutsiro District cited a case at his school in May when a student was caught abusing cannabis.
Mugisha said, “We tried to counsel the boy but he was adamant. He said he would rather be expelled from school over indiscipline than leave drugs.”
In another case, four students showed signs of subsistence abuse early this month at GS ACEPR Nyamagabe. On checking their suitcases authorities found them with pictures in which they were posing with cannabis.
However, the students refused to apologise for their actions.
Another head teacher said the anti-contraband campaign should be treated as a national concern, involving parents, schools and all education stake holders.
Teacher, parent involvement
“There should be a policy that involves us teachers and parents before the situation goes out of hand,” said Eliel Makuza, director of Lycee de Gitwe, in Ruhango District, where two students were expelled from school early this year over drug abuse.
Albert Boudouin Twizeyimana, a parent with three secondary school children said police should step up the fight.
“There is need for a very strong drug tracking policy; we are doing our best to educate our children at home. Teachers barely do the same at school but students are exposed; even school guards supply our children with drugs, police should help us,” he said.
Virginie Mukamugema, director of ACEPR-Nyamagabe said Police should help educate the students, adding that although parents do their work students need someone who is more knowledgeable on the dangers of drugs.
Govt to follow up students to/from school
Though there are no statistics on drug abuse among youth, different institutions have realised that the vice is rife in schools.
In a bid to stem drug abuse in schools, the National Youth Council recently launched awareness campaigns in schools in a programme also aimed at creating awareness on dangers of teenage pregnancy.
Alphonse Nkuranga, the executive secretary of the Council, said they have so far visited schools in three districts of Rwamagana, Nyanza and Musanze.
The target is to reach all the districts this year.
“We want to enlighten the students on the health threats. But we also need parents to monitor their children especially those who are not in boarding schools,” Nkuranga said.
He appealed to teachers to be more vigilant.
The New Times has also learnt that the Rwanda Education Board (REB) has drawn measures to guide schools in the anti-contraband war.
In an interview on Tuesday, Janvier Gasana, the Deputy Director General in charge of Education Quality and Standard Department at Reb told this paper that transporting students to school at the beginning of the term is one of the mitigating measures since students reach school without indulging in misconduct on the way.
Gasana said, they are now working on plan to follow up the students movement from school up to their homes.
“We are closing on October 24; every school will tell us the transport company they have booked for their students. Buses will take students from their respective schools and we will be at Nyabugogo Taxi Park to welcome them as they reach the city.”
By so doing, REB expects to reduce the number of delinquency and drug abuse cases, because, said Gasana, students abuse drugs on their way to/from school, otherwise they never get a chance to have them once in parents’/school’s hands.
REB also intends to engage in public awareness campaigns targeting bars that sell alcohol to students and other children under 18.