Bulawayo residents are concerned that the continued closure of schools is fueling drug and other illegal substances abuse among teenagers resulting in increased early pregnancies.
Acting President Constantino Chiwenga last week postponed the re-opening of schools by a further three weeks when he announced an extension of the COVID-19 lockdown by 14 days.
Teacher unions have criticised the delay in the re-opening of schools, with the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) saying this showed the government did not care about the education sector.
Silisiwe Bhanda, one of the residents who spoke to the Standard appealed to the government to reconsider opening schools and rolling campaigns that will raise awareness on the dangers of substance abuse at an early age.
Rita Moyo said the continued school closure will result in us having half-baked students. Moyo told the Standard:
Once teenagers are involved in substance abuse, and the next thing they drop out of school. Since 2020 children have been hardly learning. It’s hard to convince them to go back to school. These are the same teenagers that end up robbing us because drugs are addictive and they need to raise money to buy them every day.
Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) chairperson Ambrose Sibindi the nation has adapted to living in the COVID-19 era, therefore, schools should have been open a long time ago.
Last year, Psychiatric units at Harare’s two major referral hospitals, Sally Mugabe Central Hospital and Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, reported that they were overwhelmed by the rising number of mental health cases linked to drug and substance abuse.
Most patients have complications arising from crystal methamphetamine, commonly known as “mutoriro”, “dombo” or “guka.”
Most abused drugs include ganja cakes, a prohibited cough syrup called BronCleer (bronco), skunk (chemically treated marijuana), white-sniffing-powder Tik, mbanje and illicit beers known as “musombodhiya” in street lingo.
President Mnangagwa last year appointed a task force to hunt down drug dealers.