Midlands State University (MSU) hosted the launch of the Drug and Substance Use Prevention Among Primary Students (DASS) programme on Thursday the 30th of September 2021, at the University’s Gweru Main Campus. The launch which was coupled with a training workshop sought to educate participants on ways of managing  and preventing drug and substance abuse (DSA) among primary school students.

DASS is funded by the American Academy of Pediatrics through their “Community Access to Child Health (ICATCH)” programme meant to improve the livelihoods of young people in developing countries. Dr Julia Mutambara is the DASS Programme Director, which will run for 3 years at Chikumbiro and Takunda Primary schools. The grant was awarded to a consortium comprised of the MSU Department of Psychiatry and Young People Mental Health Trust Yo Petalth ZW led by Mr Tawanda Murepa.

Speaking at the Launch and training meeting, Dr Mutambara indicated that DASS targets to educate 1 500 students (grade 6 students) on drug and substance abuse over a three year period. In addition, 1500 parents with participating children will be educated on healthy parenting and how to help their children avoid drug and substance abuse. It is envisaged that targeting grade 6 children will help to delay initiation and avoid abuse of drugs and substances. Dr Mutambara noted that each year grade 6 teachers and guidance and counselling teachers at the two schools will be trained to implement the DASS modules in their classes. She noted that the DASS programme is sustainable as it empowers staff from the Ministry of Education to be able to carry out trainings. The programme will also utilise edutainment with dramas, poems, art and quiz competitions to allow students to showcase their understanding of learned concepts.

Speaking at the event, Midlands State University Acting Pro Vice-Chancellor Research and Academic Affairs, Professor Alois S. Chiromo said that drug and substance abuse by children had reached crisis levels. He noted that the DASS programme is in line with the University’s thrust of education 5.0. aimed at using theory to inform practice.

In her presentation, Midlands Deputy Provincial Education Director, Mrs Angeline Zahile elaborated on how the Gender-Based Violence Desk and Guidance and Counselling platforms were created to help deal with cases of student misbehaviour as a result of drug and substance abuse. She welcomed the DASS programme and pledged to provide the necessary support for the programme.

Headmasters from Chikumbiro and Takunda as well as staff members attended the event. Other participants included representatives from (YO-PETALTH) and members of the University community among them the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Dr Reginald Matchaba-Hove and the Deputy Dean Dr Fabian Maunganidze.

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