School clubs breaking the drug habit in Kanyama informal settlement
More pupils joined the anti-drugs club at E-Way Academy pushing up the latest attendance to over 20 of the total 230 pupils at the academy. The number of pupils joining has gradually gone up since the club formed in May 2018, and is set to increase further as efforts under the Zambia programme of Action Africa Help International (AAH-I) eradication programme picks up pace.
Currently, pupils from the upper primary segment of the academy make up the majority of attendees at the club as they represent the age group prone to drug addiction and alcoholism in Kanyama township where E-Way Academy is situated. The situation in Kanyama is illustrative of the impact of this scourge in Zambia’s urban informal settlements. According to the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) cases of drugs and alcohol abuse have been increasing yearly among the youth in Zambia, most worryingly among school kids as young as 13 years old. In 2018, the DEC handled at least 5,000 drug-related offences which included those of 295 juveniles aged between 11 and 17 years.
As a remedy to the problem AAH Zambia initiated awareness campaigns on drugs and alcohol abuse in schools and among refugee and the host communities in Lusaka City. E-way Academy was selected for the campaign due to its location in Kanyama – one of the townships most affected by the scourge. Other locations within the city grappling with the problem are Kabulonga and Roma areas where awareness campaigns were also rolled out in Pestalozi Secondary Boarding School and Living Hope Foundation Community School, respectively.
The campaigns employ interactive activities such as singing and dancing to stimulate interest and reinforce learning. Progressively such efforts are bearing out as the affected children are casting off the harmful habit. Misheck Zimbiri, a social counselor with the Zambia AHH office noted that “the vice posed a danger to the lives and future of these young people as it affected the mental state of the individual. We are progressively beginning to see students perform better”. Loveday Mweene, the Director at E-Way Academy echos similar sentiments remarking that at one time “there was a high number of young people abusing drugs and other substances in this area where our school is situated. However, through the anti-drugs club we have seen the transformation of 3 students below the age of 15 who were addicted to alcohol. We are grateful for the partnership with the scripture union club and Action Africa Help Zambia programme that have been supporting us for the last 10 months helping us to advocate for a drug-free society”.
The programme is part of AAH-I interventions that contribute to achieving target 3.5 of Sustainable Development Goal 3, to strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol.