Drug abuse in public secondary schools in Nairobi: the views of students on causes, effects and interventions strategies
Drug abuse occurs when a person continues to use psychoactive substances despite negative effects that cause distress or interfere with daily life. Commonly abused drugs impact negatively on the health of individuals, interfere with children's school performance and may threaten survival. Recently in Kenya, the problem of drug abuse among secondary school students has received greater media coverage and attention from various leaders and professionals. In June/July 2008, a spate of unrest in some secondary schools was in part blamed on drug abuse, leading to the setting up of a Parliamentary Committee on Education, Research and Development to look into the issue. The verdict of the committee was that drug abuse, insecurity in schools, and parents neglect of their children, were some of the reasons behind the strikes in more than 300 schools in the country. The goal of this study was to assess the views of students on drug abuse in public secondary schools. The objectives of this study were to establish the students views on the claim of prevalence of drug abuse, establishment of views on causes, and assessment of knowledge and attitude of students towards drug abuse. This study was also interested in inquiring about views on how students access commonly abused drugs, and students views on prevention strategies of drug abuse in secondary schools. The study was conducted in 8 Nairobi public secondary schools in October 2008. A total of 116 students in Form 1 - Form 4 were interviewed and their views recorded. Primary data was collected from the students using questionnaire, while data from the key informants was collected using key informant interview guide. Focus group discussion was conducted on the students using a focus group discussion question guide.Quantitative and qualitative methods of data analysis were used to arrive at the reported findings. Probability and non-probability sampling techniques were used to sample schools and students for this study. Data was compiled using descriptive statistics and 'presentedjn the form of tables, frequency distributions and percentages. According to the findings of this study, about 90% of the sampled students held the view that drug abuse was common in secondary schools in the country. Only 9% of the students did not view drug abuse as a common problem among youth in secondary schools. While nearly 50% of the interviewed students suggested that drug abuse was common among their schoolmates, a similar number of the students held a different view and disagreed with the suggestion. The students held the opinion that drugs from outside school could reach students through friends, the school watchman, kitchen staff and other workers. The students, however, had no tangible evidence to prove the allegation. This study concluded that majority of the students were of the view that drug abuse was a problem in secondary schools in Kenya. Further, the respondents felt that having a lot of pocket money was a likely cause of drug abuse. This, however, does not necessarily exclude students who have less pocket money from vulnerability to drug abuse. Students were well informed about the types of commonly abused drugs that students are likely to abuse, the reasons for possible drug abuse, and the impact of such drugs on human health. The views of the respondents on prevention strategies were that students, teachers, the school administration, parents, the community and the government had a role to play in prevention of drug abuse in secondary schools Key words: Students, views, drug abuse, public secondary schools.