About 1,000 pupils from Butterworth High School took to the streets on Friday in a bid to urge police to intensify the fight against substance abuse inside school premises.
The pupils marched through the town holding placards in an effort to increase awareness of drug usage in schools.
The whole school, from grades R to 12, took part in the march. Teacher Sandra Zitumane said they were inviting “police and all other members of the community to fight drug usage by pupils, not just in Butterworth High, but in schools across the region”.
“We are a school situated inside a town. Many people smuggle drugs to our pupils in various ways and we are tired of that and we are asking the police to help us,” she said.
Zitumane said they submitted a memorandum to the Butterworth station commander.
Demands on the memorandum included asking police to conduct surprise substance searches more frequently and a plea to assist with a substance testing machine at the school.
“We believe these demands will help us fight substance abuse by our children. This of course will be with the assistance of social workers and other roleplayers.
“Our aim is to help the child rather than punish them because we believe there is a reason behind everything they do,” said Zitumane.
Butterworth police spokesperson Captain Jackson Manatha said they commended the initiative. “We welcome them reaching out to us. This will make our job much easier because when police work hand in hand with the community, the implementation becomes much quicker.”
Manatha said installation of substance testing equipment in schools is a decision to be taken by the school governing body and the education department.
“It is not our call. Those decisions lie with the department and the parents,” he said.
Zitumane said they received a positive response from the community and hoped other schools joined them in their quest.
Mnquma mayor Sithembiso Ncetezo also welcomed the effort shown by the school and deemed it "encouraging”.
"Substance abuse is a big challenge. It was encouraging to see young people taking the lead.
“The municipality, in partnership with the University of Fort Hare, has a programme to help pupils suffering from substance abuse,” Ncetezo added.