More than two thirds of school pupils tested for drugs tested positive, according to the provincial education department.
“Particularly concerning is that this problem extends not only to high school learners, but primary school learners too,” said Education MEC Debbie Schäfer.
This year, several drug tests had been conducted in various schools where there was a “reasonable suspicion” of drug use, Ms Schäfer said.
“Tests were only conducted on learners who had already been suspected of substance abuse. A total of 360 primary school learners from 36 schools were tested for drugs. Of these, 229 tested positive. A total of 605 high school learners from 17 schools were tested for drugs – of these 415 tested positive.
“I am shocked at these results.”
Denver Dreyer, of Northpine, who runs the Independent Drug Education Agency (iDEA), said: “It’s a very sad statistic, but I can say from my side, it’s true.”
Mr Dreyer said his organisation, which mentors pupils to stay away from drugs, noted two shocking instances where young primary school pupils had been found to be using drugs.
“Two days ago, I was called in to counsel a Grade 2 learner who was displaying unruly and erratic behaviour in the classroom. After speaking to him for a few minutes, I was able to detect one of the roots of his outburst. He says that every day after school he and a friend ‘skarrel’ around in Wallacedene looking for empty beer bottles and then sell them to buy dagga.”
Mr Dreyer said at another school 15 out of 24 children in one class admitted to having smoked dagga.
“Many were as young as 9 years old,” he said.
Mr Dreyer said that the drug culture at schools was “strong” and at one high school a pupil had been caught smoking dagga in the classroom.
“This is alarming, but we use this as motivation to further our campaigns against drug abuse,” he said.
Ms Schäfer said the department and police did random search and seizures at schools frequently.
“If the learner has tested positive for liquor or illegal drugs, a discussion must be held with the parent so that he or she may understand the consequences of the use of liquor or illegal drugs.
“The principal may, if the parent so requests, refer the learner to a rehabilitation institution for drug counselling. Only the learner and his or her parents must be informed about the outcome of the alcohol or drug test.”
Ms Schäfer said the Safe Schools substance abuse programme also helped schools deal with pupils at risk or under the influence of drugs.
“The training programme includes basic information on drug detection techniques, peer counselling and specialised fields of drug control.”
The department also had several curriculum-based programmes on drug education, she said.
Pupils or parents needing counselling or support can call 0800 45 46 47. The department also has a drug awareness website at http://druginfo.
Mr Dreyer can be contacted at 064 266 5728.