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Drug menace frightening



THE expulsion of eight girls from Dominican Convent High School in Harare for drug abuse is a wake-up call to a society that has failed to take decisive action against the substance abuse menace which threatens to undo the country’s achievements in the fields of education and adolescent health.

Zimbabwean ghettos are already ruined by illicit drugs.

The so-called middle class and the well-to-do — whose children dominate privileged schools like the Dominican Convent — have for a long time wrongly assumed that they are somewhat insulated from the social pathologies afflicting poverty-stricken Zimbabweans. As this sad incident has shown, drug abuse is no longer just a ghetto problem but a fully-fledged national crisis.

Last year, The NewsHawks published a series of news articles revealing the shocking extent to which this problem has spiralled out of control.

Crystal meth, in particular, is currently decimating a whole generation of youths in Zimbabwe.

The carnage is astonishing. Evidence of this is plentiful, but many people would rather conveniently wear blinkers and pretend that our lives are fine and dandy.

In recent years — and this was amplified during the Covid years — there was a frightening increase in teenage pregnancy.

When you record up to 5 000 teen pregnancies per month, you are no longer dealing with mere social challenges but an outright crisis. Illicit drugs are a key factor contributing to risky sexual behaviour. Some of the painstaking gains of national HIV and Aids response programmes are in danger of being reversed as infection rates go up.

Opportunies for personal growth are difficult to come by in an economy that now largely exists to serve the interests of the rich at the expense of the poor majority. In despair, school leavers and young adults are taking to alcohol, cannabis, crystal meth and other intoxicating substances.

We should not be surprised that school children are being ensnared. These children do not live on remote islands; they interact with the same drug peddlers and addicts who prowl the streets. During the Covid-19 lockdowns, many school children were stuck at home, with nothing productive to kill the boredom. Many of them fell victim to the drug trap.

The government, school authorities, development partners, churches and parents must now redouble efforts to counsel learners.

Analysts say the prevalance of illicit substance abuse has increased dramatically largely due to easy access to the drugs, cheap price and social problems engulfing the country, particularly unemployment.

Of grave concern has been the rising trend in drug abuse among adolescents and youths.

Currently the most common drugs include glue, broncleer (with codeine), methamphetamine (crystal meth — also known as mutoriro, guka or dombo — mangemba, cane sprit, mbanje and codeine, worsened by use of musombodia, a highly intoxicating drink which used to be mainly found in the ghettos but is now found everywhere, including schools.

As our reportage has repeatedly shown, substance abuse is no longer confined to homeless children. A street kid whose “home” is a pile of cardboard boxes on the banks of Mukuvisi River in Harare now has something in common with a privileged child who attends an expensive school and lives in the leafy suburb of Glen Lorne. Illicit drugs could soon become a devastating equaliser.

The factors at the heart of the drugs menace are multifaceted. High unemployment, coupled with poverty and despair, divorces, family unit breakdown and peer pressure, have fuelled the use of drugs in society, especially among youths. For this reason, only a multifaceted approach to tackling the problem will make a difference.

The illicit substances are insidious in their effects. Zimbabwe is paying the price through mental health problems, crime, delinquency, depression, diseases and a breakdown in social order.

Above all, drug abuse is a desperate cry for help. But is society listening?

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