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Nine-year-old users

Yolande Forde

Barbadian children as young as nine-years-old are using marijuana.

This startling revelation came today from Manager†of the National Council on Substance Abuse, Yolande Forde. She was at the time discussing NCSA’s national anti-drug plan at a press conference held at the Ministry of Home Affairs at Webster’s Business Place in Wildey.

Forde said that her organisation conducted a study and while the findings were not yet available, she could report that it showed the average age of first time users of marijuana had dropped to nine-year-olds.

Based in this information, she said, it was imperative that the NCSA instituted and maintained vibrant and effective primary and secondary school educational anti-drug programmes. But instead of just targeting schools, Forde said they would seek to use every method and opportunity possible to spread† the message far and wide to all age groups.

“Where you are the NCSA is,” she said. “We are not asking the fellows in the community to come anywhere, we will meet you in the rum shops. We will meet you under the tree, we will meet you on the pasture, wherever you are, and we will do our interventions right there with you.

“I can think of no society that has completely escaped the ravages of drug abuse, which has already destroyed too many minds, too many lives, too many families and too many possibilities for success among our people.

“The drug control sector involves and array of strategies directed at reducing both the supply†and … demand for harmful and addictive substances. Within our arsenal is one important weapon: public education. In this regard, the NCSA, under the guidance of the Minister of Home Affairs, has remained relentless in its anti-drug efforts particularly in the area of education which is an important aspect in prevention. In this respect the NCSA, despite its small staff, has achieved some measurable successes.”

Among the programmes which Forde said had been successful were the seven within primary schools that have exposed more than 20,000 students to culturally relevant, age appropriate drug education materials.

SOFT is a one week residential camp designed for students moving from primary to secondary school. The follow-up to this programme is the Prevention First Club, targeting both children and their parents. There are two programmes in secondary schools in addition to The Youth Seminar for third year students.

In conjunction with the Barbados Defence Force Sports Programme there is a project called Sports Not Drugs and there is also the I Make The Choice concept and later this year they will also launch a more national workshop to target all parents.

“There are drugs in every secondary school in Barbados…, so there is no use us living under a cloud of illusion. The same way I believe parents are the primary agents of crime prevention I also believe that they are the primary agents of drug prevention education and it has to start in the home. The parents are the ones who are there to instil norms and values and morals which they want their children to inculcate and embrace during their lifetime; the NCSA is there to support that process. We cannot be in your home raising your children for you and so it is very important we have our message being enforced.

“We are aware that if we have an intervention within a secondary school for 40 minutes or an hour but that child returns to a home where the mother’s boyfriend is smoking, the older cousin is smoking, the uncle is smoking — it is part of the culture of the home.

“We realise that there is a clear disjuncture between what we are telling the children and what they are experiencing as part of their culture of the home. That is one of our challenges and we understand that … it is very difficulty to penetrate the private province of the home.

“There have all sorts of people out there that have children, they are in a parenting role. They might not be doing it effectively, they might be passing on a whole series of anti-values but they have children so we have to reach them some how…†I am fairly convinced that when you see children engaging in deviant and delinquent behaviour at eight or nine years old more often than not they have learnt that behaviour in the home,” said Forde. (KC)

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