Drug abuse rampant in colleges

HARARE - Touched by the rampant abuse of drugs and other substances in the country’s tertiary institutions which has led to addictions, crime, serious social, health and moral problems, the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) student affairs chaplaincy will hold an awareness campaign workshop to sensitise students and staff on the dangers of abusing drugs.

Daily News on Sunday senior staff writer Mugove Tafirenyika speaks to senior chaplain Edwin Mugwidi on this.

Q: You will be holding an awareness campaign on drug abuse in tertiary institutions. How bad is the situation at UZ?

A: The campaign is not specifically about the UZ but the obtaining situation at various institutions including the UZ. The situation is bad although the campaign at the UZ is not a witch-hunt. We are just worried about the possibility of our students being persuaded to indulge in such practices. Of course there are some instances where we find students using dagga or bronchitis or whatever.

We don’t have statistics at the moment, but we find students we suspect to be under the influence of such drugs and even alcoholism.

So we are concerned and we want to protect our students so that they will not fall into this trap. It is affecting everyone; tertiary institutions even in South Africa are grappling with drug and substance abuse

Q: What has prompted the chaplaincy to raise awareness? Have you noticed something seemingly untoward in the behaviour of your students?

A : We have some students who have been taken to hospital whom we suspected to have been on drugs. Some you see even physically when you meet them and you may guess that this student is under a certain influence although we are yet to verify the facts.

We get reports that some mix family planning pills, ARVs and mental health pills making a concoction, so we are told, but like I said we have not yet proven that. We get such reports but we do not have details.

And as you know it is illegal, they might hide the drugs where we cannot trace them but if you walk around in the dark corners during the night you see students and you suspect that they are up to no good.

Q: But we hear there is tight security at universities. How come you seem not to be sure if indeed these things are happening or they are just reports?

A: You know wherever there is security it does not mean that people will not find ways of escaping the security apparatus. There will always come up with ways to evade.

The timing in which they can do what is prohibited is also a factor, so security is always necessary and it is tight but you are not always present.

Q: How has it affected the learning process of students?

A: It disrupts the education, some miss lectures, performance deteriorates, and interest in learning vanishes when people abuse drugs although we have not yet engaged the academic side to assess the impact since we are saying we have not established the real facts at the moment. Our concern at the moment is to raise awareness.

Q: What about the effects on the general behaviour of students?

A: The behaviour associated with drug abuse includes lack of respect for neighbours, the elderly, the authorities and so forth. It will always affect relationships and even peers will be affected because of intoxication.

Q: Is this something peculiar to male students only?

A: I am not sure of the use of drugs among female students but alcohol. We also hear reports that there are female students who may enjoy their alcohol to some excessive extent. But it is possible that they might also be involved in drugs.

Q: Don’t you think drug abuse could be a result of poverty and hunger at tertiary institutions?

A: There is a plethora of reasons why people engage in drug abuse. Some are to do with family issues which may compel them to do that, economic, social and religious reasons are also a factor.

Some just want to experiment, peer pressure, spiritual challenges, and other problems can be a cause too as they seek to forget some of them.

Q: Is it mandatory for students to attend awareness campaign?

A: We expect a large number of students because it is educative, to give awareness. It is not possible, though, to bring everyone, it is not possible to make it compulsory as well but we will try to advertise it and we hope to do it every semester so we can save students who may be affected by this.

Q: What is your message to the people out there?

A: People should wake up and fight against crime, and drug abuse because they destroy our health, families and careers. So my message out there to students and society is that we need responsible citizens who are sober. Drugs violate people’s rights,  they  bring death and are a threat to our health, societal values, our careers and aspirations.

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