First it was sugars, then whoonga and now Durban school pupils were back to dagga because it was more readily accessible, police and education authorities warned on Sunday.
The warning came as a top Durban girls’ high school sought to expel a pupil caught with a list containing the names of other pupils who had apparently placed orders for “space muffins” (muffins baked with dagga), also known as dagga cookies.
The use of drugs in city and township schools has long worried parents and teachers and if not addressed, could create a crisis in the education system in the next five years, education leaders have warned.
“Drugs are a major issue in many schools and there is no quick fix answer to it,” said Sundrum Subramoney, Chatsworth chairman of the South African Principals’ Association. “Schools are heading towards becoming ungovernable and unmanageable in the future.”
In some Durban townships, the so-called whoonga drug, a cocktail of heroin, crystal meth (tik) and sugars, has been blamed for an increase in violent crimes and break-ins. The users are mainly teenagers and young adults. Sugars is a mix of cocaine and heroin.
Subramoney said pupils were consuming drugs and alcohol on school premises, but he stopped short of blaming school authorities for failing to take precautions.
“It is sometimes the pupils who are responsible for bringing drugs into schools because they have a market on the premises,” he said.
“They know their regular customers and those pupils are selling for someone and are getting a cut.”
Dagga was the most available drug at school because it was the most easily accessible, Subramoney said.
“A pupil would be in a daze while the teacher is teaching and they become a bit agitated and aggressive when they are reprimanded about being inattentive,” he said. “This could lead to a violent attack on the teacher.”
Subramoney said it was very difficult, however, to catch the drug dealers and users, but it was clear that the violence in schools was linked to drugs.
“Drugs are a very concerning issue in schools and communities. It started with sugars, whoonga and now it is dagga,” said Umlazi education district director, Mlungisi Ntombela.
“The department has established committees that conduct talks with pupils about the dangers of drugs.”
Ntombela confirmed that a complaint of a pupil selling dagga-laced muffins at Durban Girls’ High School had been made.
The Daily News was tipped off by a Girls’ High School pupil who sent an SMS to the newspaper’s BackChat section, a platform for public interaction on various issues.
When the pupil, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, was contacted to elaborate on her message, she said a Grade 11 pupil was caught a month ago with a packet of dagga – and a list of the names of her customers in her bag.
However, Ntombela said a girl was found selling “space muffins” to other pupils and she had already eaten some herself. He said the school would forward its recommendations to the education circuit office to be assessed.
Durban Girls’ High principal, Anne Martin, also confirmed that the girl was caught with the list of names and dagga-laced muffins, but said it was not raw dagga itself.
“Her bag was searched and dagga cookies (space muffins) and a list of pupils was found,” Martin said.
“An internal disciplinary hearing has been conducted involving the school governing body and it has recommended expulsion.”
Interviews with the pupils were being conducted on the order list and their parents.
The chairman of the school’s governing body, Isabel Mkhwanazi, said the school had programmes “to curb drug use”, but she refused to be drawn into the incident being investigated.
“Schools should take the bull by its horns and deal with the issue,” said KZN Parents’ Association chairman, Sayed Rajack. He said parents needed to accept there were drugs in schools and that their children were using them.
The provincial education spokeswoman, Mbali Thusi, said parents should also play a role in advising their children.
“Children come from communities where they see these things happen,” she said.
Thusi said schools were working with local police stations to carry out searches and seizures
But the department did not keep any records of drug incidents in schools because they were usually handled at school level, she said.
“This is a very worrying issue, it is a big problem and something needs to be done about it,” Thusi said.