by Dr. Susan Mathew
MULUND-MUMBAI, SEPTEMBER 20, 2014: A half day training programme for teachers in identification and prevention of substance abuse among school children was organized by Don Bosco Research Centre (DBRC) and Wamanrao Muranjan school, Mulund in the school hall on September 13, 2014. The workshop was attended by twenty teachers of the secondary section and junior college and some teachers from the neighbouring schools.
The programme began with a welcome speech given by Mr. Chaskar, the Principal of the school, followed by a brief introduction about Don Bosco Research Centre and its activities by Dr.Susan Mathew. Prior to the commencement of the programme, a pre-workshop evaluation form was distributed among the participants to assess the teacher's level of knowledge.The first session on `Substance Abuse Prevention' was conducted by Mr. SwapnilPange, psychologist and Counsellor at TISS. Talking about risk and prevention, Swapnil pointed out that a person's curiosity to experience drugs, to be part of the group, and the notion that one could work faster if he/she experiences the effect of drugs were some of the driving forces for substance abuse. Monitoring and regular follow ups with child's behaviour, professionals, doctors, and families were essential for identification and prevention.
Skills building, open dialogues with children, debates, forums, discussions on substance abuse were some of the preventive measures that could be undertaken at the school level. Life skills included; enabling the child to think critically and constructively, problem solving, empathy, awareness and coping with negative emotions. At family level, it would mean improving conflict resolution skills, improving dialogue with families and helping parents to develop effective parenting skills to deal with the issue.
Talking on the `Role of Teachers in Prevention of Substance Abuse in Schools', the second resource person Ms. Mayuri Jain who works at the rehabilitation centre, KEM hospital, explained the prevailing situation among the children based on the latest research findings. Accordingly, among children from class VIII-XII, sixty percent tried substance abuse at some point of time more so among urban male students coming from nuclear families. Aggressive behaviour, drop in academic performance, withdrawal from teachers and peers, absenteeism and socially inappropriate behaviours were some of the common symptoms displayed by children into substance abuse. However, all such symptoms necessarily would not amount to substance abuse.
It is the responsibility of teachers to be sensitive to identify such symptoms and to go beyond what met their eyes in order to draw a correct conclusion. Risk factors such as family history, trauma, rejection by peers, and lack of skills could trigger such symptoms leading to addiction. Teachers were not only to identify symptoms but also needed to enhance protective factors to such vulnerable children as a preventive mechanism. Protective factors to promote self esteem, resilience, communications skills, decision making, stress management etc. were to be given utmost importance at school.
A school should take initiative to enforce clear rules for parental involvement, to provide supportive or nurturing environment, alternatives for recreation, youth activities, parental involvement etc. As a teacher it was essential that the teacher build a personal rapport with children so the children would like to confide in him/her if they had personal problems.The programme concluded with a post-workshop evaluation to gauge the impact of the training and then a vote of thanks.