Newspaper clipping – The Cape Argus – 3 February 2010

Schools targeted in new drug drive

The Western Cape provincial government is to launch a five-year plan to tackle the growing drug problem, particularly at schools.

Substance abuse services are to be streamlined and money saved by eliminating duplication.

The first step will be a review of school programs to determine shortcomings. One already identified is that fact that there are only 49 social workers for more than 1000 schools.

The life orientation curriculum will also be assessed to establish whether it’s helping to curb drug abuse among teens.

Other suggestions include deploying psychologists who will screen pupils, as well as increasing afternoon care and extra-mural activities.

Robert Macdonald, spokesperson for Premier Helen Zille’s office, said the provincial government was finalizing the plan, which would cover schools, hospitals and clinics.

Macdonald said while there were services to deal with substance abuse they were too “fragmented”.
  “There is a lot of duplication of efforts and money is not being spent as effectively as it should be. There are many drug awareness campaigns in schools, but there is not enough research on whether these programmes actually make a difference. They also often take away teaching time. We have to ensure that it is an evidence-based curriculum, one that is tested under proper scientific study conditions. The wrong kinds of messages can cause more harm than good, or just waste public money.”

The Medical Research Council says existing interventions are failing to curb adolescent substance abuse.

Andreas Pluddeman, senior researcher at the MRC’s drug and alcohol abuse unit, said:
  “Not everyone is informed about the dangers. There is a struggle to find interventions to tackle the problem.”

Nariman Khan, the spokesperson for Safe Schools, agreed that the measure to fight the drug scourge could be increased.