The National – Wednesday, February 16, 2011
By DULCIE OREKE
A RESEARCH has found that about 10% of Grade 7 students take marijuana, the symposium on alcohol abuse in Port Moresby was told yesterday.
During his presentation, acting secretary for education Dr Joseph Pagelio said the findings had revealed that the percentages of students taking these illegal substances also increased as they move up the grades.
He said 7% female and 24% male students interviewed in the research also admitted to having sex within their own age group after taking drugs or alcohol.
The research, conducted by the Department of Education guidance and counselling branch, indicated that 20% of students in Grade 9 had taken marijuana while 11.17% admitted to drinking alcohol.
Pagelio told the symposium that in many cases, the students had admitted to starting off with alcohol.
“Those who could not afford it settled for homebrew on a regular basis,” he said, revealing a 37% consumption rate among Grade 9 and Grade 11 students in their quest for life’s pleasures.
The education secretary said the researchers also noted that another 10% either ingest or inhale other substances like laboratory (methylated) spirits and other drug-like bush plants or they sniff petrol, glue, paint and other chemicals.
Pagelio told the symposium that addiction to drugs and alcohol had often resulted in criminal acts and irrational behaviours, which were further boosted with other drugs and illegal substances sold on the street.
He also pointed out that between 2005 and last year, anti-social behaviours – drug and alcohol abuse; student violence; unplanned pregnancies; pornography; bullying and cult activities – were “frequent in our secondary and upper primary schools”.
Teacher absenteeism was also another major problem.
However, Pagelio said the Education Department had developed new mechanisms to address drug and alcohol abuse in schools.
He said the introduction of a new behaviour management policy would change the way schools manage and respond to student behaviour.
“It is a whole school approach to promoting positive student behaviour,” Pagelio said.
“It is about creating an environment where students are valued and learn the acceptable ways of behaving.”
The strategies included effective discipline techniques and sanctions, fair suspension and expulsion processes and counselling. The other strategies contained in the policy included supporting a healthy learning environment, effective class and school management and teaching of life skills.
Pagelio said the policy also outlined the mandated responsibilities of everyone including parents and guardians, local communities, teachers, school counsellors and guidance officers, head teachers, standards officers and Tvet inspectors, school boards, the Teaching Service Commission and Department of Education and the national education board.