Drug abuse: a challenge to education – Egypt
Amani G. Rizk
The abuse of drugs and other substances is a key challenge facing schools globally. It requires early and appropriate interventions because it is causing many children to drop out of school and is damaging the health and potential of the next generation. It often leads young people into trouble with the police, to use violence or behave inappropriately. This can lead to exclusion from school. Yet these children still have a future and they still have rights.
In Egypt, hashish and bang (forms of cannabis) are often affordable and easily available to children. Some may abuse solvents and inhalants which are also cheap and readily available. Few children abuse alcohol because of the cost. The lack of supervision of pharmacies results in a circulation of medications without prescription, leading to the abuse of medicinal drugs. Although statistics are unreliable, a recent study has highlighted the fact that the use of drugs by school children and young people is becoming a serious problem in Egypt.
What contributes to the problem?
- family history of dependence and abuse
- divorce and abandonment in the family
- absence of discipline at home
- peer pressure
- start smoking when young
- drug use accepted in some communities
- easy availability of some substances.
Factors in the education system/schools
- poor school environment: crowded classrooms, insufficient supervision, poor toilet facilities, extreme punishments
- regular failure in exams and/or pressure to perform: children may try to ‘escape’ the system
- no alternatives to formal schooling for children who work or who cannot afford to go to school; they may end up in vulnerable or risk-taking situations
- school system is unable to counteract the culture of drug use in some communities
- schools reject drug abusing pupils; viewing them as criminals rather than children with health and/or emotional problems.
What can we do?
In Egypt there are attempts to create and adapt some early intervention programmes to be used in schools (through governmental associations or NGOs). These programmes give children information and knowledge about drugs, how to avoid becoming involved, and the results of using drugs. They aim to give children the inner strength to refuse drugs, based on a sound understanding of the issue.
These programmes (provided by NGOs) find school children who are abusers (both in and out of school), and start to evaluate their situation. They offer medical treatment and psychotherapy to help them stop depending on drugs and rehabilitate them.
Promoting inclusive practice in education
An important way to help prevent and deal with the issue of drug abuse among children and young people is by making our education system more inclusive and responsive to the needs and rights of all learners. This can be achieved through small steps like:
- raising awareness among school children about substance abuse
- including drug and other social issues (peer pressure, bullying, etc) in the curriculum, enabling children to talk openly
- training/informing teachers about drug issues and how to respond
- encouraging schools to accept, not automatically exclude, children with drug abuse problems
- changing people’s perceptions, and training law enforcers in child rights, so that drug abusing children are not viewed/treated as criminals
- introducing flexible teaching/learning approaches, to accommodate children’s rehabilitation schedules or learning problems developed due to absence from school or physical/intellectual damage caused by drugs.
I believe that if we are to tackle the problem of drug abuse and uphold the rights of all children, then the Ministry of Education should adopt these sorts of initiatives through a national strategy.
Amani is the Research Co-ordinator for Arabic EENET, a partner of the Enabling Education Network. She is also a psychologist at the Oasis of Hope drug rehabilitation programme. Contact Amani in Egypt by email: firstname.lastname@example.org , or via EENET’s main UK postal address. Email the Oasis of Hope: email@example.com.