Some students have taken to smuggling alcohol and drugs into schools in sanitary towels and mixing it in soft drinks, an education ministry official has said.
“As Ministry of Education, we know there are students who are engaging in drug and alcohol use. And one of the ways they smuggle drugs and alcohol in schools is by hiding alcohol sachets into pads,” Henry Semakula, who works in the guidance and counseling section, said.
Semakula said prohibited items are mainly smuggled in on visitation days when students are visited by unofficial parents such as drivers.
“In the two schools where we found student victims of alcoholism, we established that the students entered school with sachets of alcohol when they returned from home after the school fees pass-out,” he said.
Semakula advised parents and teachers to thoroughly check students when they are reporting at schools and returning home for holidays.
“In some schools, they are now using sniffer dogs to track drugs and alcohol in students’ luggage,” he said.
Semakula said this on May 9 during a science café organised by Health Journalists Network in Uganda (HEJNU) in conjunction with Straight Talk Foundation at Straight Talk offices in Kamwokya, a Kampala suburb.
He said the ministry is now handling psychosocial challenges that affect students such as drugs and alcohol abuse.
“We have trained some teachers to give community guidance to students to avoid dangers of alcohol abuse in schools.”
Dr Brian Mutamba, the consultant psychiatrist, Butabika national referral mental hospital spoke about the incidence of drug addiction in youth.
“A lot of these young people who come to our facility are the young adolescents and this is the age they start using drugs and alcohol. This contributes a lot to their health issues,” he said.
According to Dr David Basangwa, executive director Butabika, alcohol and drugs are the major cause of mental illness in Uganda.
“If we don’t fight it seriously in young children, we shall lose the young generation. The biggest percentage of patients I have here are the youths,” he said.
Basangwa said Butabika, on average, has over 850 patients daily who are kept there for about four weeks.
“But 30 per cent of these patients don’t reach their homes when they are discharged since they are abandoned by their families who fear them that they might be dangerous to them and the community. The patients instead return to hospital and we are planning to start engaging them in vocational work once we get funds,” he said.