Testing in schools won’t stop drug abuse


Maranda High School teachers admit students on December 3, 2021. The students were required to show proof of mandatory drug and substance tests, done in a public health facility or Nacada before being readmitted to school. 

Photo credit: Tonny Omondi | Nation Media Group

The mandatory drug testing proposed by the secondary school heads association is not appropriate from a human rights perspective. It’s also an ineffective drug and substance abuse prevention method.

The ethical consideration voiced against mandatory drug testing by educationists, parents and lawyers include the fact that it violates children’s right to privacy. It compromises the trust and interferes with confidence between schools and students.

Other concerns include the potential for breach of privacy, detrimental effects such as suspension or expulsion of students whose test returns a positive result, increased cases of school dropout, and use of substances that are not easily detectable in drug screening.

The drug tests could face the same storm as the 2015 government directive of mandatory HIV testing of students. The court declared the authorities’ bid to determine the number of students living with the virus unconstitutional, saying there was no law making testing mandatory for learners.

Most drug tests are not reliable for use in schools. It would also be too expensive a programme for a public school to afford.

The credibility of the programme will also be in question. Parents may not believe the results when the test is done in their absence, making it difficult to find consensus between students, teachers and parents.

Positive face

It could also make students who test positive face juvenile justice, hampering their pursuit of education and, perhaps, making them academic failures.

School administrators will have to look for other prevention intervention measures to drug and substance abuse.

One option is offering guidance and counselling to the students suspected of drug abuse. That will help in knowing the reason why they abuse drugs and the duration they have consumed the narcotics. The information would help in application of a safe and healthy reactive approach to the problem.

Guidance and counselling will also help in curbing school unrest, many cases of which have been witnessed in the past. This is because there will be closeness between teachers and students, which will help in knowing the problems students face that might lead to their torching school property.

Interventions should also focus on building positive relations and developing students’ sense of connectedness with their school.

School administrators should, therefore, use guidance and counselling and national guidelines for alcohol and substance abuse as the preferred options to curb drug and substance abuse among students, rather than mandatory drug testing.

David Abonyo, Kisumu