Drugs: Schools, parents have a long way to go

DUBAI — The arrest of 17 school students in Dubai for allegedly smoking hashish three years ago had sent shock waves through schools, parents and students. Heads of schools and parents then observed that education, awareness and collective responsibility would help weed out the problem. While several international schools have been addressing the issue and parents are openly discussing the topic at home, many feel there is still a long way to go.

By Preeti Kannan

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Published: Sun 14 Oct 2007, 8:42 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 4:49 AM

Some institutions like Jumeirah College and Greenfield Community School have incorporated social health as part of their curriculum. “We have a personal social health education programme. The lecture held for an hour every week,” says head of Jumeirah College, Christopher Short.

“While we do not have a specific drugs programme in the Science curriculum, we do talk to the older students on the dangers of addiction and abuse,” Short adds.

He says it is imperative that students are aware of the ill-effects of drug abuse. “Students would be exposed to drugs when they go abroad and we should prepare them to face reality,” Short stresses.

Principal of The Winchester School, Dubai, Raminder Vig says since the impact of drugs on children is immense, the problem should be nipped in the bud. “There is more awareness in the UAE and the law is stringent on such offences. In the US, children sometimes steal money to buy drugs and this affects the family also in the long term,” he says.

While schoolchildren here have a good level of awareness about the menace, Vig says: “Children should be encouraged to hold conferences on the dangers of use and abuse of drugs as that will have a greater impact on their peers.” The school has invited a specialist from the UK to talk to the children on the social skills. The school hopes the students will get the message through the session.

Some parents consider it as an integral part of familial bonding to discuss issues like drugs with their kids openly, instead of avoiding the topic. Parent Geethanjali Kanagaratnam feels while awareness exists thanks to the life skills programmes in schools and on television, she says “parents should not treat the subject as a taboo”.

Recalling an incident that happened a few years back, she says, :My daughter had a friend who used to take drugs and alcohol. She knew about it all along and one day, the boy died of overdose. She was really shocked when it happened and that sort of nailed the point we were trying to make.” Geethanjali believes parents should take the first step to bridge the gap with their children and talk to them before its too late.

Natasha Kulkarni and her husband share their teenage experiences with their adolescent son to keep him in sync with reality.

She feels that many Indian schools do not have an active counselling system equipped to deal with adolescent issues unlike their international counterparts.

For instance, Grade X Indian student Sudakshina Shivkumar says she doesn’t have enough information on drugs as her school never discusses the subject. “I know I should not take drugs but I would like to know more about it. Schools must talk to us about the issues based on the ground reality,” she says.

While many Indian schools have campaigns against smoking, drugs are usually an untouched subject, feel parents and children.

Darryl Bloud, principal of Dubai Modern High School, concedes that his school does not have any programmes addressing the problem of drugs, but says they would take up the issue in the future. “These are real issues which our kids will face when they leave schools. We definitely should engage our parents who work in hospitals and ask them to talk to our kids. More schools should create programmes for students,” he asserts.

The Department of Social and Psychological Welfare Programmes of the Ministry of Education, in fact, has its counsellors and social workers who conduct preventive awareness programmes regularly in government schools. Ahmed Al Khayyat, director of the department, says that in case they do come across students addicted to smoking or drugs, which is usually rare and negligible, the counsellors intervene and ensure that they counsel and help kids overcome the problem.

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