Cebu Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale’s support for a Department of Education (DepEd) order to conduct drug testing among the country’s students should not just be followed but should encourage other local officials to be proactive in ensuring the protection of students from drug pushers who wait outside their campus to prey on them.
True, there is no 100 percent foolproof process to determine consistent drug use among students who, as Magpale said, can go as young as high school level. But that shouldn’t stop education officials from allowing agencies tasked to conduct the drug tests from proceeding with their task.
There is mandatory drug testing in schools across the US and other parts of the world, and why it’s not conducted often among schools in the country can be explained by a lack of budget and even interest among school officials.
And there have been instances of teachers and students peddling the drugs themselves discreetly in school or holding shabu-sniffing sessions at their homes or near the campuses in the province.
These drug-peddling students and teachers in turn can get quite creative in teaching their hooked customers how to avoid being detected for drug use, including securing information before the schedule of drug tests in their schools.
There is little doubt about public support for random drug tests on students although it’s a little surprising that militant leftist student groups oppose the DepEd order on fears that it would compromise the student’s privacy and prevent him or her from finishing his/her education.
In issuing the order, Education Secretary Leonor Briones assured that confidentiality will be respected. But more is needed to keep them walking the straight and narrow path towards rehabilitation.
This is where counseling steps in. And while private schools can afford to hire advisors trained to handle situations like drug use among students, the same cannot be said for public schools that already find it hard to employ additional teachers, let alone more classrooms for their students.
The church may be able to designate lay persons or priests to handle counseling for troubled students hooked on drugs in public schools and colleges if they haven’t done it already.
Nongovernment organizations (NGOs) can also pitch in, while the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) can actively participate and drum up interest in programs aimed at diverting students away from the lure and easy attraction to drug use by making them productive members of society while still in school.
Drug use and trafficking remain pervasive and dangerous threats to society, and by keeping drugs away from students and making sure they’re clean from both substance and alcohol abuse, stakeholders have one less thing to worry about.