The average age for drug use in Barbados rests among children between the ages of seven and eight years.
And, family members and friends have also been identified by the soon-to-be released National Primary School Survey 2020, as being the common drug sources for students in classes three and four.
These facts, said Minister of Home Affairs, Information and Public Affairs, Wilfred Abrahams, underscore the need and importance of programmes such as Project S.O.F.T. (Safeguarding Our Future Today), hosted by the National Council on Substance Abuse (NCSA).
He made these revelations as he addressed the camp’s 18th graduation ceremony at the Prince Cave Hall of the District “A” Police Station last Saturday.
The Minister noted that over the last 18 years, approximately 650 children passed through the camp, which also impacted the lives of over 500 families.
“The NCSA is the Government agency charged with preventing substance abuse, and so devises, undertakes and promotes programmes and projects aimed at its prevention, elimination and or control,” he said, noting it also had a large mandate.
Meanwhile, the NCSA’s acting Deputy Manager, Dr. Jonathan Yearwood, said drug use was one of the most significant issues confronting students as they transitioned to secondary school.
He added that findings from primary and secondary school surveys conducted by the NCSA showed that secondary school students were five times more likely to use marijuana at least once, than students between the ages of nine and 11 years.
In contrast, he noted that students in secondary schools were more likely to consume a greater percentage of alcohol and engage in binge drinking than students at primary schools.
The acting Deputy Manager explained that Project S.O.F.T. was a three-phase approach to transitioning students from primary to secondary school. He said that students first participated in a one-week camp, which taught them life skills and drug education. During the second stage of the programme, the parents of participating students also receive training in drug education, dealing with adolescents and coping skills.
Dr. Yearwood added that the third component then involved students’ participation in a follow-up programme that assessed and reinforced learning skills and other skills acquired during the first stage of the process.
During the one-week day camp, led by Director Mosiah Hoyte, students were exposed to a curriculum designed to equip them with the skills and information needed to successfully navigate their transition to secondary school life.
They were exposed to sessions on self-discipline, relationship building, values and self-esteem, and identifying when they were being negatively pressured.
The students all received prizes in a range of areas during the graduation ceremony.