NCDA to target schools in ZOSO areas
Director for Safety and Security in Schools Unit at the Ministry of Education and Youth Richard Troupe (right) speaks about the targeted school interventions that the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) alongside the education ministry will be rolling out during November, Drug Awareness Month. Looking on are NCDA Executive Director Michael Tucker and NCDA Research Analyst Uki Atkinson. (Photo: Naphtali Junior)

SEVERAL initiatives designed by the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) for children and school administrators are being rolled out over the next six months to stem the increasing level of drug abuse.

Speaking at this week's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange, director for the Safety and Security in Schools Unit at the Ministry of Education and Youth, Richard Troupe expressed optimism about the programmes.

He highlighted the 25/34 schools strategy in declared zones of special operation and capacity building training for school administration.

Troupe said the 25/34 schools strategy will be focused on 34 schools located in seven declared zones of special operation. He said the schools will be targeted for specific interventions to ensure that those who might be vulnerable to the different substances get the necessary attention.

Troupe however pointed out that apart from the schools in ZOSO areas, there will be an islandwide school tour to address the issue of drug use among students. This forms part the national school tour launched by the NCDA on Friday in recognition of Drug Awareness Month, under the theme 'Drug-Free Lifestyle Trending'.

"There were several articles in mainstream media that have raised serious concerns about the emergence of these new forms of drugs — Molly, edibles, and vaping. The articles pointed to these substances being popular among young persons, school-age persons in particular. We are guided by the technical expertise of the NCDA.

"We have demonstrated commitment through the partnership by a joint press conference that was held in September as we resumed the 2022/2023 academic year, and we have already conceptualised a comprehensive plan to be rolled in our school system," Troupe informed.

Troupe pointed out that the ministry is aware of the songs that popular artistes have created to glorify substances, an issue which deserves important attention.

"We have been seeing the videos, the fights in schools, videos of children having sex in classrooms. We do not know if these actions are linked to the use of any of these substances but I think as a Ministry of Education we have to exercise due diligence, and so we value the partnership. There are a number of initiatives that will be rolled out in the next six months that will be of importance to the ministry, and in particular our students and educators who will be directly targeted by these interventions," he explained.

The capacity-building training, he said, will be focused on school administrators such as deans of discipline, guidance counsellors, and Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) teachers to provide support for children.

"The intention is to have our deans of discipline, guidance counsellors, HFLE teachers in the same space within regions to participate in workshops. The NCDA will be supporting the ministry to revise its substances misuse policy document. These new substances are not reflected in our policy document that we currently have; it is outdated and so we want to ensure that it is revised. And again, it is a participatory process — critical stakeholders in the ministry at the school level will be involved in the review of this policy document," he said.

Brittny Hutchinson

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