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Four-year-olds abusing drugs, says Nacada

Irene Githinji @gitshee

Children as young as four years old are abusing drugs and other harmful substances, a new report has revealed.  The report launched by the National Authority for the Campaign against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (Nacada) yesterday, says the average age for the initiation into drugs is 11 years.

Among the most widely available drugs and substances of abuse by primary school pupils is tobacco at 41.7 per cent, prescription drugs at 27.8 per cent, alcohol at 25.9 per cent and miraa at 23.1 per cent.

The report is the outcome of a survey commissioned by Nacada and conducted by Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA) in June last year.

The survey covered 3,307 students from 177 primary schools attending classes five to eight in 25 counties. It shows that at least 16.9 per cent of primary school pupils are  using one drug or substance while 7.2 per cent are on prescription drugs.

The survey found out that 3.2 per cent of primary school children are using tobacco, 2.6 per cent are on alcohol while  2.3 per cent chew miraa.

Releasing the findings of the survey yesterday, Nacada chairman Col (Rtd) Julius Githiri said the report would go a long way in  addressing drug and substance abuse among children.

Gitiri said the report, dubbed Status of Drugs and Substance Abuse among Primary School Pupils in Kenya, would guide programme interventions.

He said the report had dispelled the notion that drugs and substance abuse was a youth and older people problem and did not affect primary school children.

Nacada will partner with the Ministry of Education to undertake a national survey in institutions of higher learning to establish the magnitude of the problem, he said.

“We need to look at the issue holistically and avoid concentrating on areas of interest. We need to take the Nacada mashinani activities to the ground,” said Githiri.

He further called for proper sensitisation against drug and substance abuse in primary schools and enforcement of laws and prevention policies.

The efforts include enforcement of guidelines on establishment of business premises and bars near schools, ban on sale of cigarettes in single sticks and sensitisation of parents on the risks of keeping drugs at home or being accompanied by children to drug consumption facilities.

Drug sources

Common sources of drugs mentioned by the students included kiosks or shops near schools at 28.6 per cent, bars at 25.7 per cent, friends at 19.3 per cent, other students at 13.7 per cent and school workers at 13.6 per cent.

Periods when the drugs are mostly abused include school holidays at 30 per cent, on the way home from school at 22 per cent, weekends at 21 per cent and at inter-school competitions at 20 per cent.

The report further showed that at least 20.2 per cent of primary school pupils have used at least one drug, 10.4 per cent have used prescription drugs, 7.2 per cent have used alcohol and six per cent have ued tobacco.

Prescription drugs

Interior Ministry Principal Administrative Secretary (PAS) Kang’ethe Thuku called for concerted efforts in the war against drugs, saying  prescription drugs are becoming popular among school-going students.

The PAS directed all Regional Co-ordinators to ensure bars  are not established within 300 metres of schools  and kiosks banned from operating near school fences.

Thuku also called for an amendment into the Tobacco Act to enhance penalties of selling single-stick cigarettes to minors.

He urged school heads to partner with Nacada in fighting drug abuse, while urging parents to be aware of where their children are and what they are doing.

The report recommends streamlining the policy environment in schools and setting up, or financially supporting, guidance and counselling departments in schools.

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