Despite the ban on codeine, stakeholders are worried that the action may not check substance abuse among students and youths, report KOFOWOROLA BELO-OSAGIE, ADEGUNLE OLUGBAMILA and Jane Chijioke.
A recent documentary by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on codeine abuse, particularly in the north, may have prompted the ban on the drug. The ban has since been followed with the closure of some pharmaceutical firms which produce the drug but educationists, schools, parents and teachers have to do more to guide youths in their care away from drug abuse.
Obi Omotayo, an education consultant and peer educator trainer, said banning would achieve very little. He wrote on the Concerned Parents and Educators (CPE) group page on Facebook that there were so many other unconventional substances that the government could not ban, which, sadly, were being abused by young people.
“If banning is the solution to codeine abuse, then I guess there’s more work for the “banners,” he said.
Other items on the list are: Tramadol, 10-day old urine; soakaway (cesspit); Hypo in Lacasera; TomTom in Lacasera; Burnt bitumen; Burnt tyre; Diesel; Rephnol; Shisha or hookah (water-based contraption used to inhale various substances which can result in a high e.g, vanilla flavour; Skushi (cocktail of alcoholic drinks, fruits and marijuana); Gutter (drainage) water; Methylated spirit and many more.”
Rather than the ban, Omotayo said the government needed to address the root cause. of the problem.
“Why don’t we address the root cause? Why are we simply reactive? Are we saying if BBC comes up with a documentary tomorrow showing some people now smoke garri, the government will ban it? The action of the government is simply like a doctor treating a patient for itching caused by rashes without treating the rashes. We need more wholesome approach to this epidemic. I for one am tired of this fire-brigade approach to issues,” he said.
A teacher in a private school in Ojo area of Lagos believes that most youths’ indulgence in drugs could be traced to negligence on parts of parents. He called on parents to be vigilant about their wards.
He said: “A woman once brought her son here and begged us to admit because the father lives in the East while she too works on the island.
“It did not take long before this boy started behaving in a very strange manner, but each time the mother’s attention was called, she would protest that some friends in the school were influencing her son.
“One day, the woman was not around, this boy engaged one of his neighbours son in a brawl and stabbed him in the process. Police were called and while taking him to the station, they discovered Indian hemp and some other dangerous drugs on him. The police also invited the mother and that was when she knew her son was into drugs. That was the end, we expelled him.”
In interviews with The Nation, some school administrators said they were conscious of the dangers of substance abuse and put machineries in place to address it.
A principal in one of the schools in Iyana Era, Lagos, who pleaded not to be mentioned, said in his personal capacity, he set up an Students Anti-Crime Commission in any school he is deployed in.
“This has been my personal initiative. Any school I find myself, I set up Students Anti-Crime Commission and make students themselves members of the committee.
“Though their role is to campaign vigorously to their peers to keep away from anti-social tendencies, I charge them to particularly fish out the very stubborn ones or those suspected to be doing drugs. These are the targets of their campaign.
“I also organise special programmes for them against drug abuse. I personally take time out to talk to them myself through personal experience. Let me be frank with you, I also tried drugs myself when I was in secondary school but was lucky to realise drugs don’t pay,” the principal said.
Every student at the Lagos State University (LASU) is conscious of facing a disciplinary panel once they are caught either abusing drugs or possessing them.
The university spokesperson, Ademola Adekoya, said the management, has deployed security officers to man strategic points, particularly students’s hideouts.
“About three weeks ago, the security apprehended one of our students who was already intoxicated with tramadol. He almost passed out. Thank God the security were there on time and had to rush him to the university’s Health Centre,'” Adekoya said.
“Under this management, students have been banned from attending Staff Club to keep them away from alcohol. Also alcohol has been banned in all students cafeteria across our campus. Management believes it could be a prelude to doing drugs.
“Most importantly, we usually talk to parents to warn their wards against untoward behaviours. We tell them not to blame us if we send their children home because of one form of indiscipline or the other.”
Caleb University says as a faith-based institution, management constantly hammers the word of God into its students’ ears.
“We do a lot of preaching and counselling. We are a Christian university and therefore allow scriptures to guide our operations,” said the university Public Relations Officers (PRO), Mr Elvis Otobo.
Nonetheless, the institution does leave everything to spirituality alone. Otobo said warnings are inscribed on Students” Handbook and various online platforms.
“We also have a functional Guidance and Counselling Unit, which, from time to time, is saddled with the responsibility of appealing to students to steer clear of ungodly behaviours.
“We have an active management/parents platform where the two parties constantly interact. As parents, you are constantly informed of your students’ activities, even if you are not around. We send examination results and general information on students conducts to parents to know how their wards are faring in school. Parents can also interact with the vice chancellor directly should they need information on their wards.”
Vice Chancellor of Anchor University Lagos (AUL) Prof Joseph Afolayan said the institution held programmes yearly and tests students once they resume every semester to guard against drug abuse among its students.
As a result he said the three-year-old university had not expelled students for drug abuse.
“What we do is that we organise lecturs on abuse of drugs and on semester basis, we subject students to drug test so we ensure they do not become victims of drug abuse. Our health service runs 24/7 so we are able to promply address issues.
“Because of these regular checks and the fact that our campus is 100 per cent residential, we are able to monitor our students closely. They have to take exeats to go out and sign when they return,” he said.
Director of Studies at Dansol High School, Ogba, Lagos, Mr Esan Oladapo, said regular counsel helps pupils of the school to keep on the straight and narrow and advocated same policy for all schools.
Apart from efforts by schools and parents, some students said young people abusing drugs have to make personal decisions to stop the abuse themselves A student of Public Adminstration at the University of Lagos, who only referred to himself as Kunle, said he had to take a personal decision to stop drug abuse because of health problems.
“In the past I was a fan of it. I took it as a means of expression my joyful mood at parties, club even just sitting out with friends. But at a point I had to stop because it was affecting my health. There was a time I was sick and the doctors warned me to steer clear from drinking because I told him I do mix all sort of enhancer in my drink. He explained to me that my kidney was at risk if I don’t stop because from his test,it was confirmed that I was in the habit of abusing drugs.
“There is little schools or even parents can do to stop their children from all this, it takes a personal decision. All the same the ban is the right step,” he said.
Kelechi Amadi of the English and Literature Department, said a friend of hers also stopped at the point of death.
“I have a northern female friend who had to stop taking this drug at the point of death. She was in the habit of smoking, taking codeine, tramadol to mix in her alcoholic drinks. It was just a norm for her. Deadly enough, she is asthmatic and ulcer patient. But her addiction to such things was something she could not stop. Not until she fell really sick that it was just the grace of God that saw her through with stern warning from the hospital to stay away from such. At times the best teacher is usually self-experience,” she said.
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