A soon-to-be released National Primary School Survey 2020 has found that the average age of first use for most drugs is between seven and eight.
Minister of Home Affairs Wilfred Abrahams said the report also revealed that family and friends are the most common drug source for students in Classes 3 and 4, more than half of whom reported the use “any drug: during their lifetime.
“Findings such as these clearly underscore the need for, and importance of, a programme such as Project SOFT (Safeguarding Our Future Today),” Abrahams said; as he delivered remarks at the Project SOFT’s 2020 edition graduation ceremony, today, at Prince Cave Hall, District ‘A’ Police Station, Station Hill, St Michael.
Speaking at the same event, NCSA’s Deputy Director Dr Jonathan Yearwood informed those gathered that one of the significant issues some students face entering secondary school is drug use. Dr Yearwood said the findings from primary and secondary school surveys conducted by the NCSA show that secondary students are five times more likely to use marijuana at least once than students between the ages of nine and 11 years old.
“Students of secondary school are also more likely to consume a greater percentage of alcohol and engage in binge drinking than students at primary schools. With this information on drug use it is important that programmes such as Project SOFT be given the necessary support to ensure that students, like you, who are entering secondary school, are equipped with various life skills and key information on the harms of drug use,” Dr Yearwood said.
The Minister said throughout the past 18 years, approximately 650 children passed through the camp, and more than 500 families have been positively impacted by the programme.
He said most families that experienced its benefits first hand, went on to ensure that all of their children and relatives participated after completing the secondary school entrance examination, a true testament to the quality of the programme and its role in positive shaping of young people.
“Despite this year’s change to a non-residential approach designed specifically to equip them with the skills and information needed to successfully navigate their transition to secondary school life.
“This included sessions on: self-discipline; relationship building, values and self-esteem, all of which are important elements in the overall development of young people.
“Additionally, they were taught how to identify when they are being negatively pressured by others. The Camp also gave the facts about drugs and addressed various themes that are associated with drug use, misuse and the selling of illegal drugs,” Abrahams said.
Forty students participated in this year’s Project SOFT, which was held over the course of one week. (AH)