Fiji Times

SUVA, Fiji (June 3, 2009) – The war on substance abuse in schools must be raised to a new level after revelations by the Ministry of Education.

It is evident that a serious problem exists within the school system.

Police and the Education Ministry acknowledge that students are being used to sell and distribute drugs in schools and on the streets of a number of municipalities.

Acknowledgement of the existence of this problem is the beginning of what must be a concerted effort to reduce or eradicate drug and substance abuse in our young people.

Perhaps, most disturbing is the fact that students in primary schools have started to experiment with glue sniffing.

This is only the beginning of what can become a serious addiction to marijuana or more dangerous drugs, which have recently become more accessible in Suva, Nadi and Lautoka.

It is important that parents and teachers take up the battle against substance abuse by constantly monitoring the activities of their children and students.

An integral part of the battle against substance abuse is the creation of awareness in the young people of this country.

Too often, the awareness campaign is directed at secondary and tertiary-level students or adults.

We fail to realise that it is the very young -- students in primary schools -- who watch and learn from the actions of older people.

At this tender age, children are easily influenced.

They believe that whatever their parents or older siblings do is correct or good.

They link smoking, drinking and drug-taking to adulthood and believe that these activities are part of the transition out of childhood.

In this, they are sadly mistaken.

But it is up to adults to be role models to the young and constantly address the issues of alcohol consumption, drugs, cigarette smoking and teenage sex and pregnancies.

This is not an easy task in a country where cultural restraints are often used as an excuse not to discuss these issues in public.

Substance abuse can become a matter of life or death.

That is why it is important that the issue is addressed as early as possible.

Early intervention must be followed by constant monitoring and advice throughout the teenage years.

And there is no reason why the campaign should ever stop.

What must be abundantly clear to everyone is that the end to substance abuse will not come about only through the involvement of the Education Ministry and the police.

A cleaner, healthier Fiji can become a reality if everyone takes part in the attempt to stop substance abuse.

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