In an effort to curtail the increasing spate of drug abuse among secondary school students in Plateau state, a Youth-Led Irganisation-The Young Africa Leaders Initiative (YALI) Nigeria Network in collaboration with the US Embassy Abuja, at the weekend launched an aggressive campaign against drug abuse targeting 200 students in two public schools in Jos.
Speaking to newsmen in Jos, Esther Mark, the Project Coordinator for Yali Hub plateau state, and a Mandela Washington Fellow said the campaign was conceived arising from the increasing number of young persons in Nigeria who are getting involved in drug use. The age of first-time illicit drug use has continued to decrease to 11 years. In a bid to address this growing epidemic, the government of Nigeria recently banned the sale of Codeine-laced cough syrup; a popularly abused drug in Northern Nigeria. However, banning along would not solve the problem.
The goal of the project is to empower adolescent students to be adequately informed on the physical, social and psychological aspects of health that are associated with drug use, to adopt healthy behaviours, identify associated risk factors, develop prevention techniques and promote improved treatment access. Drug abuse limits the ability of young people to be productive which in turn creates a recruitment pool for domestic insurgency/terrorism.
The Young African leaders Initiative Nigeria (YALI), a project of the United States Department of state, sponsored the campaign. This is made up of the Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni Association of Nigeria (MWFAAN), The Regional Leadership Centre Alumni of Nigeria and the Yali Network Plateau Hub. These bodies implemented the project.
She said the project is aimed at increasing efforts to identify some adolescents who are under the bad influence of drug abuse, pointing out that drug-free clubs would be formed to enable them to access the right information to curb the menace.
“In the clubs, they will be taking some of the YALI online courses on the YALI Network website while we avail them resource persons to aid their journey towards recovery for the addicted ones, and for their personal development.
“We chose two schools for the project in Plateau State and about a hundred students or more will be in each club of these schools.
“Basically, we have started with the SS two students for the project and would push for more classes for the clubs.”
She added that “the plan is to ensure that they imbibe the right information concerning subsistence drug abuse.’’
“Adolescents who are addicted will have problems actualising their dreams as it could affect their mental state and health. We preach leadership and development as we seek that they become useful citizens tomorrow.’’
“This is a pilot project. We will see what we can do and how it went and then we go back to the drawing board to re-strategize.
“Our major focus at this point is public schools because most public schools don’t have the right resources to teach and give students all they need.
“There is also a community engagement component of the project. The students trained today, will we also go into the communities and spread the message’’
“Community engagement component is actually the last part of this campaign. When we teach here we step down the information to the communities.”
Kingsley Mayowa Okonoda, a Consultant Psychiatrist with Jos University Teaching Hospital and Senior Lecturer in the University educated the students on the dangers of consuming illegal drugs . The second speaker, Nurse Mercy Ajaegbo also called on the students to stay away from drugs
The project is being implemented in 5 Northern states in Nigeria.