ONE of the biggest problems facing education in the townships and the Northern Areas is drug abuse. This according to Sector Police Manager Sergeant, Bongani Siyona, who talked to PE Express during the Eastern Cape MEC for Education Mandla Makupula’s visit to Ithembelihle High School on Friday.The MEC’s visit to the school was part of a fact-finding mission to the schools that performed badly in the matric exams, as well as to those schools that fared well.Sergeant Siyona, said school children as young as 10 years of age were abusing drugs.“We hold campaigns against the abuse of drugs in schools because the problem is huge,” said Siyona.Dagga and mandrax were the main drugs they found in schools.Siyona said they obtain permission from School Governing Bodies (SGBs) to do searches of learners’ bags.“In the past we used to get illegal weapons like knives, but the biggest problem now is drugs,” said Siyona. Police spokesperson Captain Johan Rheeder confirmed the high prevalence of drug abuse in schools in the Northern Areas.Capt. Rheeder said school children were highly involved as most of them were exposed to drugs from a very young age, especially in areas like Gelvandale, Bethelsdorp and Helenvale. He said the druglords use schools as a marketplace for drugs such as Tik and mandrax.According to Capt. Rheeder, drug lords use young children to sell drugs and pay them money, which can be between R50 and R100 per day.“They take this money home and it buys bread, but most of it is used on drugs. This becomes a cycle as these children experiment with these drugs and get hooked,” said Rheeder.He said they were trying to fight the scourge through using the services of sector police managers to be “Police Daddies”.They look after schools and engage the leaerners in anti-drug abuse campaigns.Other ways in which they are addressing the problem include motivational talks by former drug-abusers, normal police patrols and searches.