KZN schools drug shock

2009-01-28 00:00

IF you think children are protected from drugs because they attend a private school, think again.

A report-back on drug searches carried out in 32 schools in South Africa in 2008 presents a shocking picture of the prevalence of drugs, which affects even pupils at primary level.

From private colleges to even the poorest government schools, hard drugs like heroin, mandrax, crystal methamphetamine, ecstasy and dagga were found hidden in bags, lockers, maths sets, soccer boots and even in a school library hi-fi speaker.

These are the findings of Bruce Braithwaite’s drug-searching initiative, Drugdogz. The searches took place in pre-primary schools, high schools and universities in KwaZulu-Natal, Transvaal and Mpumalanga. Of the 32 institutions searched, drugs were found in 19.

Locally, dagga seems to be the drug of choice. One private school pupil was caught with the drug hidden in his sock. In a public school in Pietermaritzburg, another pupil was found with ecstasy.

Braithwaite said Mountain Rise is one of the worst affected areas, noting that most students there do not consider it consider dagga to be a drug.

He said the drug problem is rife in Chatsworth, where his team filled a two-litre ice-cream container with drugs of all sorts.“Sugars” — a mixture of cocaine, mandrax and rat poison — topped the list.

An 11-year-old boy at a Durban school was charged after being found in possession of a .22 pistol, along with a list of teachers’ and the principal’s names.

“The searches were non-invasive. We did not check urine or the blood from children. We are not a security company — we just handled the dogs. After children are indicted, the teachers get involved and parents are called in,” said Braithwaite.

He teamed up with the Raylin House, a rehabilitation centre in Pietermaritzburg that offers drug talks at schools.

The owner of the Scottsville-based centre, Denise Mumford, said she deals with recovering addicts and that most of her clients started dealing with drugs in school.

“Drugdogz is wonderful because I think we don’t realise how big the problem is. I feel if the problem is caught at an early stage, it would be a lot easier to solve for the 25- and 28-year-olds trying to deal with the problem now.”

The Boadvida Training Centre, which specialises in dog training, will take over the project.

Braithwaite, a father of children aged 15, 11 and six, hopes the exercise will help parents and teachers look more closely at their children.

A Curry’s Post farmer, Braithwaite started Drugdogz in May last year after reading about an eight-year-old girl who died from a drug overdose in 2001 after a school outing.

After failing to get assistance from the Education Department, he decided to launch the project independently, which he said cost him 12 months of income.

“I felt that if I did something positive, the government would step in and want to implement it on a larger scale. But it is obvious that if it is of no benefit to them, they are not interested.

“I have sent in proposals to the MEC and she has cancelled [meeting] me three or four times. I tried everything and everyone from the Drug Advisory Board to government officials, but to no avail.”

Braithwaite uses Labrador Retrievers that were trained in the United States to sniff for dagga, meths, heroin, cocaine and speed.


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