Drugs: The deadly vice making silent rounds among students
Posted Saturday, February 23 2013 at 02:16
Drug addiction. Following the death of Butaleja Woman MP Cerinah Nebanda and Amazing Race producer Jeff Rice, both cases attributed to drug abuse, word in the corridor was that drug abuse is wide in the country and is slowly spreading among secondary school students.
Peter Kanyike was in Primary Five when he tried smoking -by rolling a paper and lighting it by the charcoal stove.
He had seen several people in his Mengo-Kisenyi neighborhood puff away on cigarettes and other drugs and wondered “how it would feel like.”
Now a Senior Two student (school name withheld for fear of victimisation), Kanyike has become addicted to smoking.
“I usually get out of class in between the 45-minute lessons to go to the toilet and smoke. It does not matter what the weather is like or what time of the day it is,” Kanyike says.
He confesses that besides smoking cigarettes, he is also addicted to other illicit drugs.
Like Kanyike, Paul, a Kenyan student at a secondary school in Kawempe, a Kampala Division, admits to sneaking several drugs into the school, especially in the night. He shares the drugs with his friends.
The recent death of Butaleja Woman MP Cerinah Nebanda and former Amazing Race producer Jeff Rice - all linked to drug abuse, must have been an eye-opener of a bigger and often hidden problem of drug abuse in Uganda.
The availability of cheap drugs due to weak law enforcement and easy transit between Uganda and other countries is partly to blame for the vice.
The police are, however, quick to defend themselves against abetting drug use, saying the problem is that several convicted drug traffickers get away with short sentences or fines that are not equal to the intensity of the problem.
“The problem isn’t about the enforcement. We arrest drug traffickers at Entebbe International Airport and produce them in court but before we even reach Kampala, they are released after paying their fines,” Vincent Ssekate, the police spokesperson, says.
The weak laws in Uganda, police say, have helped drug barons use the country as a transit point for drugs such as heroin from some Asian countries.
It is suspected that the drug barons use innocent Ugandans, especially students, as couriers. These are made to swallow the drugs packaged in pellets or carry them as luggage.
Indeed investigations by the Saturday Monitor show that drug use is common among students and youth.
School administrators are aware of the problem, although they say they have no way of solving it.
“The problem is turning out to be a very complicated phenomenon in that the students no longer take the drugs in their raw form. They are no longer taking the traditional ones,” the deputy head teacher of Kampala Secondary School, Mr Paul Bwaniki, says.
He added: “You may find a student chewing and you cannot tell whether they are chewing drugs. So the ignorance of the administrators is not doing us any good.”
He, however, says the drug problem is mainly faced by foreign students, especially those from Tanzania and Kenya, who “feel like they are out of prison” when they come to study in Uganda.
The problem has been heard in many school circles but the Ministry of Education officials say they cannot establish its magnitude because no student has been “caught red-handed.”
“We have heard this rumour but it is until we are investigating into a strike that you will hear reports that the students could have been influenced by drugs, Francis Agula, the commissioner for higher education, says.
The different forms and ways in which the drugs are packaged and the way the students carry them to school has added to the complexity with which the problem can be tracked.