Africa-Press – Namibia. TEACHERS at three Walvis Bay schools say substance abuse among pupils is getting out of hand, and that children as young as 11 years old are smoking dagga and selling drugs.
Some even turn to prostitution, these school principals allege. Immanuel Ruiters Primary School principal Dominica Ortman Gawises says teachers are shocked everyday from what they hear.
“Some 11-year-old pupils tell us they are involved in gangs and drug dealing. Some are leaders who organise sales early in the morning. Every member has to bring in a certain amount of money by the end of the day,” Ortman Gawises said.
The Namibian spoke to a nine-year-old pupils from the school who allegedly smokes weed. “I smoke because of my friends. I want to stop, but I don’t want to lose my friends. We don’t smoke dangerous things. It is only weed. You are noticed in the community when you smoke,” said the pupil.
A Grade 9 pupil, *Kirk, told The Namibian he sells drugs without the knowledge of his parents. “I sell it to my friends and I get a bit of money. According to my friends, we look ‘cool’ when we smoke. I do it to have more friends,” said Kirk.
Another Grade 10 pupil, *Cecilia, said the drugs make her concentrate better at school. “I only smoke a bit of marijuana. I heard that it makes you concentrate. I am not really addicted,” she said.
The principal of Flamingo Secondary School, Theresia Goagoses, said the performance of boys from grades 8 to 11 has been poor because of this problem.
“They come [to school] under the influence and give disciplinary problems like disrupting classes. They are mainly using dagga and pills. When we detect that, classes are disrupted because teachers have to immediately attend to this issue. It results in pupils losing out on valuable [school] time,” she said.
She suggested that the issue should be discussed through regular community meetings, with churches, social workers and life skills teachers’ involvement.
Parents are very concerned, while schools at the town are struggling to function normally due to pupils showing up under the influence of drugs, teachers say.
A life skills teacher from Kuisebmund Secondary School Josephine Iyambo, says girls as young as 12 years old have turned to prostitution to obtain money and substances.
Children from 14 years old openly tell me that they are using drugs. We notice when they come in looking down, moody and being antisocial in class. Some become overactive after break time. We suspect that they smoked during that time,” says Iyambo.
Teachers from Kuisebmund say some parents are clueless about the extent of the problem, while others are simply in denial, feel ashamed or just give up. Hubert Mukosho, who works with troubled youth, says most children do not understand the dangers of the substances they use.
“It seems like the drug lords have become smarter. They change their tactics. They sprinkle a bit of stronger drugs on the milder drugs that are seen as harmless. The victim thus becomes addicted and keeps coming back. Children test positive for heroin although they say that they only used marijuana. They are getting it from places that are known by community members who are just quiet,” he says.
Walvis Bay Multi-Purpose Centre director Mutani Tsuses says parents think their children are safe at school, but they are challenged by peer pressure.
“It is not easy. The parents give up on their children and also get depressed. We have started a support group for parents to discuss how to spot the signs early, and how to go forward before it is too late,” says Tsuses.
Erongo regional commander for community affairs, inspector Ileni Shapumba says fighting the issue is a collective responsibility and cannot be left to the police alone.
“It is not enough to say that a certain house is using drugs without sufficient evidence to substantiate the claims. People with information on where the drugs are stored must speak up. Dealers are intelligent. They do not store drugs as if they are storing food on the table. For you to be able to obtain a search warrant, you need concrete and sufficient evidence for a warrant to enter those premises,” he says.
The police visit schools regularly to talk to pupils, conduct searches and liaise with school management. “A school is a place of learning. We want the kids to learn in a conducive environment.
Children were reported by schools and some have been arrested. We follow up with visits to parents, after which cases are referred to social workers. However, parents only want to cooperate when the children become addicted and uncontrollable. By then it is already late,” he says.
Shapumba appealed with the community to start utilising suggestion boxes situated around the town to share information anonymously. *Not their real names