A key policy objective agreed to by Cabinet in the formulation of the Substances Abuse Advisory Council Act of 1998 and the establishment of the Council in 1999 was “the promotion of a healthy lifestyle and safer drinking practices, and the development and promotion of actions and advice which will reduce alcohol-related and substance abuse problem for the nation”.
This policy objective is increasingly becoming very real and important today in view of the recent revelation by the Ministry of Health that in Fiji 82% of the illness, disability and deaths are attributed to Non Communicable Diseases. NCDs have been found to be the leading cause of premature death in Fiji and the issue needs to be addressed to ensure that people do not die prematurely.
Two out of the four key contributing factors to non-communicable diseases identified by the Ministry of Health is the abuse of alcohol and tobacco.
It can no longer be denied that Drugs and Substance Abuse which include marijuana, alcohol and tobacco is a real and emerging issue in our schools in recent times and all stakeholders need to seriously address this issue firstly because of the devastating effects of drugs and other substances in the economic, social and cultural life of our society but more so on the physical and mental well being of our children, our hope for the future and how it can affect their academic performance in schools.
The use of drugs, alcohol, and other substances will not be conducive to creating an optimal state in which a student is best able to learn and implement the knowledge that has been learnt.
The National Substance Abuse Advisory Council is doing its best through Drug Awareness Workshops, Peer Education Training for Students, Training of Trainers for Teachers, Community Leaders Training, Quick Response Presentations, school broadcasts, distribution of pamphlets/brochures, Radio and TV Advertisement to increase awareness on the harmful effects of drugs to students and the general public.
In view of the growing incidences of Drug & Substance Abuse which has been a common disciplinary problem occurring in schools, the NSAAC has established a position and recruited an Alcohol & Other Drug Counsellor in 2014 whose role is to:
• Conduct counselling to students and teachers with Alcohol & Other Drug related issues
• Conduct training on Basic Counselling Skills to teachers
• Conduct training on Alcohol & Other Drug Counselling to Community Leaders, parents, police officers, and correctional officers.
NSAAC has a Counselling room where counselling is conducted for students, teachers as well as parents.
NSAAC currently has three (3) Counsellors who have been greatly assisting the Ministry of Education Counsellors in the Counselling of Students, Teachers and Parents.