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03 Jun 2004 14:23
Drug dealers are now targeting KwaZulu-Natal primary school children, a Durban police spokesperson said on Thursday.
“The selling of drugs at schools is a big concern, but what is even a bigger concern is that drug pushers are now targeting primary school pupils,” said Superintendent Willie Louw, the commander of Operation West, a team that investigates West African drug syndicates.
He said police have raided several schools in the past and conducted searches, but it is difficult to arrest any pupils with drugs in their possession.
The raids, Louw added, are done at the request of school principals.
He said the mainly Nigerian drug lords recruit runners to infiltrate the schools.
“It’s not only in Durban but in the whole of the province. There isn’t a school they do not target.”
Provincial education department spokesperson Mandla Msibi said while there are certain schools where drugs are an issue, especially those in urban areas, on the whole there is no big problem of which the department is aware.
He said the department has recently compiled a list of schools where drugs, among other things such as security and teaching standards, are a problem and need to be addressed.
Louw said teachers and especially parents need to be alerted to the problem.
“It all starts at home.
Parents need to give love and discipline at home.”
It is not only at schools that pushers are selling drugs to pupils, but after hours and at parties, he said.
Louw cited an example of a nine-year-old Durban girl who is receiving treatment for a heroin problem.
He said that during a recent raid they found girls, as young as 12, involved in sex orgies with older men because they needed to feed their drug habits.
School children are using all types of drugs, but Ecstasy is probably the biggest seller.
“Drug lords have reduced the price of drugs to make them more affordable to pupils,” he said.
Crack cocaine sells for between R80 and R100, Mandrax from R30 to R100 and Ecstasy from R50 to R100, “which is very affordable for schoolchildren”.
Dr A Jeewa, director of the Minds Alive Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation Centre in Westville, said there has been a definite increase in the number of schoolchildren using drugs.
In the past two months he has treated four 14-year-old boys who were addicted to dagga, Rohypnol and cocaine.
“It’s a fashionable thing and peer pressure. A child will start using drugs to fit in,” he said.
Jeewa, who conducts drug awareness programmes at schools nationwide, believes random testing is the only way to beat the problem.
Last year he was approached by a Durban private school that had a serious drug problem and asked for his help. He did tests at the school twice and since then the problem has decreased substantially.
Jeewa said he has advised other schools to introduce random testing, but this has not yet happened.
“Generally, there’s an apathy on the part of principals. They are afraid of what the parents will do.”
A 15-year-old pupil undergoing treatment at a Durban rehabilitation centre said he was introduced to dagga and Rohypnol by friends at school.
“Most pupils at my school are using drugs,” said the teenager.
He said he started using drugs about 18 months ago because everyone was doing it and he wanted to fit in.
The boy said he used drugs during and after school hours.—Sapa
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