Substance abuse casts cloud over schools

Last Updated 16 May 2013, 15:01 IST

Can addiction to a nail polish remover (thinner) or ink whitener force a child to sell a school fan to a kabadiwallah (read junk dealer)? It may sound ridiculous or difficult to believe but it is a reality.

 A few children of a government school in Jahangirpuri tried to sell a school fan to fulfil their need for some inhalants - to sniff some thinner. They folded the blades of the fan and threw it out of the school premises where a junk dealer was waiting to take the item and would later pay the money. The plan was foiled and the children caught red-handed. 

This may have been a one-off case but it does highlight the grave issue of rising substance abuse among children in the Capital and especially at school level. Recently, about 98 government schools have been identified by the Department of Women and Child Welfare and Directorate of Education, where instances of substance abuse have been observed and in localities facilitating abuse.

 “Jhangirpuri, Seelampur , Mongolpuri are the areas where cases of substance abuse are always high in numbers,” says Dr Rajesh Kumar of Society for Promotion of Youth and Masses (SPYM), who along with the government bodies identified these schools. “Since the schools are located in areas facilitating substance abuse, we decided to start our study and awareness camp from here only.” 

In the last few years Rajesh has seen a sharp increase in the number of kids getting addicted to inhalants. “School-going kids apply them on their collars or carry a bottle to schools. Since they inhale in large quantities, it gives them a ‘high’ during school hours which has been noticed by teachers. It also kills their hunger pangs and makes their body numb,” says he. “Even if you beat them they have no sensation,” adds Rajesh. 

Since these kids belong to the weaker sections of society, Rajesh attributes other factors behind their vulnerability to these ‘drugs’. “It is the peer pressure, the company of friends they are in most of time and lack of involvement of family members that make these kids prone to substance abuse,” say Rajesh.

But pointing out the biggest drawback, Vinod Kumar Tikoo, member National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, says, “The family doesn’t know how to counsel these kids. Instead they beat them black and blue. As a result, the child who is totally lost into addiction runs away from the family.”

“The problem turns more serious when these runaway kids are picked up by criminal and drug gangs. By luring them with money and drugs they involve these kids into crimes. It is for this reason that the crime rate is also high in these areas,” says Vinod. 

Girls too are subjected to substance abuse. “We have found 30 girls till now who run away just because of their addiction.  Ironically, we have no shelter homes for girls,” says Rajesh. Generally, many of these runaways are kept in SPYM’s shelter home. There are only three such shelters in the City. “I know these shelter homes are not sufficient for the entire National Capital but we are approaching the government for further funding to open more shelter homes for kids.” 

At a time when government authorities and NGOs are struggling to curb the situation, an official of Department of Women and Child Welfare, who preferred anonymity says, “We are taking preventive steps, like arranging counselling for children and encouraging them to take up sports. The NCERT has prepared a module to explain the ill-effects of drug abuse to students.”  Lets hope these measures work. 

(Published 16 May 2013, 15:01 IST)

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