Concerns about cannabis use among Gauteng school children are growing

Concerns about cannabis use among Gauteng school children are growing

There is a growing concern about the escalating trend of learners using drugs and consuming so-called ‘space cakes’ which are cookies containing dagga or cannabis.

Numerous learners have had to be hospitalised recently after falling sick from consuming these edibles.

The Gauteng Education Department is concerned about a growing trend of learners consuming so-called space cakes or space cookies.

Earlier this month 11 Grade 12 learners from Randfontein High School, west of Johannesburg, were rushed to hospital after they had consumed space cakes sold to them by another Grade 12 learner who was then suspended.

Two days after this incident, four learners from Mamellong Secondary School in Tsakane east of Johannesburg were also hospitalised after consuming these cakes.

The Department’s Steve Mabona says, “The MEC is quite concerned and dissatisfied with the ongoing consumption of these space cakes, which often makes learners sick. And has urged learners to refrain from purchasing and consuming any of those substances which put their lives and health at risk.”

Director of SANC Horizon Centre – a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre in Boksburg on Gauteng’s Eastrand – Sandra Pretorius says space cakes and smoking a joint are equally harmful to the consumer. Pretorius says those who consume space cakes have no idea of the amount of dagga that has been added to the cookies which poses a danger to the consumer.

“Now you eat this muffin containing cannabis is then digested and is basically lying in the tummy and then it only dissolves. So, it takes one to three hours before you can actually get the effect from the cannabis. Whereas when smoking you get it immediately. And there is danger in that. Because now you eat this space cake, and nothing happens. What do I do? I eat another cake and another space cake because people said I am going to get high when I eat these space cakes.”

She says people think that it is safer to consume space cakes rather than smoke a dagga joint but that is not the case because one has no control over the amount of dagga one consumes. Pretorius says the effects well-being and mental health of the consumer are serious.

“This overdose from cannabis is really not comfortable. Other than being paranoid, nauseas, drowsy, suffering hallucinations, and even panic attacks. Impaired mobility where they can’t walk properly, and they really feel terrible. You can even pass out.”

The Gauteng Community Safety Department has been running a school safety intervention plan with the aim of ridding schools of social ills that pose a threat to a conducive learning environment.

The department, with the help of the South African Police Service, continues to carry out operations in an attempt to rid schools of drugs.

The Department’s Ofentse Morwane says the escalating number of drugs and substance abuse in schools is worrying.

“We are concerned about the rising number of incidents of drugs and substance abuse in our schools. However, as part of the Schools Safety Programme we continue to embark on school safety talks with learners. We also do surprise school searches that are led by law enforcement agencies in the province. We have tried in some schools to establish School Safety Desks where we capacitate a group of learners on issues of safety and how to report them. So far since January to March, we have done about 589 school safety interventions working with various stakeholders in the various schools in the province and it is the work that we will continue to do to ensure we deal with law and order in our schools.”

But of concern to most people is whether these interventions are succeeding in helping rid schools of drugs and substance abuse or that much more would still need to be done to ensure schools remain drug-free zones.