Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
SOME pupils at Petra College in Bulawayo were caught “vaping” with school authorities warning that the addictive substance is a threat to learners’ lives.
Vaping by pupils has become a matter of concern in private schools.
Vaping is a process of using an electronic device that heats up a liquid and the vapour is then inhaled by users.
School authorities at Petra said there is a high dosage of nicotine in vaping juice, hence it is highly addictive.
President Mnangagwa in February launched the National Anti-Drug and Substance Abuse campaign as the country seeks to come up with lasting solutions to drug abuse which is on the increase.
Of concern is that youths are taking hard drugs which include cocaine, crystal meth while others have resorted to smoking non-conventional products such as powder on diapers, powder from some juices as well fluorescent lights powder.
In some instances, drug peddlers are said to be selling cakes laced with weed.
In a letter dated May 27, Petra College headmaster Mr Robert Aldridge said the school had taken action against several pupils who were found smoking within its premises.
“Many of you will be aware of a search conducted at the Senior College last week Friday. This was following suspicions that vaping was being done on school campus by a few of our learners. Vaping appears to be a growing trend amongst teenagers across our nation’s schools and is a matter of concern for the following reasons.
“Our school policy is clear that smoking is prohibited and this is smoking albeit in a different form. Vaping comes with well researched health risks and therefore is not to be encouraged,” said Mr Aldridge.
“Please note that the students found using or in possession of vaping devices have been sanctioned and any further incidents may lead to suspension or exclusion.”
He said there is a possibility that some of the pupils were involved in the supply and distribution of drugs.
Mr Aldridge said pupils found supplying or distributing drugs will be suspended.
He said some pupils were buying non-conventional drugs which can be harmful.
“The following health concerns are real and to be noted by parents and students: there is high dosage of nicotine in vaping juice and therefore it is highly addictive, not all vendors are honest and students are inhaling unknown substances such as pesticides which are used to stabilise the liquid,” he said.
“The ‘black market’ for vaping may use modified liquids which could include stronger drugs and other dangerous chemical components, medical professionals are seeing lung and major organ damage seemingly caused by long term vaping, some deaths have been recorded and linked to vaping.”
Mr Aldridge said parents and guardians should take keen interest in their children’s activities while educating them against drug abuse.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Mr Aldridge confirmed writing to the parents over the matter.
“I wrote to parents because of a case that we had. I wanted them to be informed so that they can be part of the process. It is fully difficult to assess any drug problem in any school or any institution. Vaping and drugs are not really the same thing. Vaping is electronic cigarettes,” said Mr Aldridge.
Primary and Secondary Education director of communications and advocacy Mr Taungana Ndoro said Government is concerned with the drug abuse problem in schools.
Mr Taungana Ndoro
He said the Covid-19 pandemic which resulted in school closures, led to many learners being idle and they turned to drugs.
“So, we are trying to have corrective programmes like the learner support services and guidance and counselling to make sure that they do not become addicted to substance abuse. Slowly, they are getting the picture because sometimes when someone starts smoking it takes longer to rehabilitate them,” he said.
Mr Ndoro said the drug abuse problem is more widespread with senior pupils.
“Previously, it was very widespread when schools opened after the lockdown. But with a lot of learners completing Form Four and Upper Six last year, obviously the figures drastically went down because usually it is the senior boys and girls who do that.
So those who are joining the secondary school and others who are becoming seniors are the ones that are under the learners’ support system and we can safely say the problem is not as prevalent as it was,” said Mr Ndoro. – @nqotshili