‘Pee in here, kid’
The law allows for responsible drug testing in schools.
(Getty Images)
Random drug testing is permitted at all public schools in South Africa, following implementation of the Education Amendment Laws Act, which took place in the beginning of 2008.

This has been a long time coming. In October 2006, Education Minister Naledi Pandor spoke to the National Assembly a day after an 18-year-old pupil was stabbed at Johannesburg’s Forest High School by a 14-year-old from the same school. The minister said that random drug testing could be a solution to the behavioural crisis in schools.

The fact is, we do not know how many of the behavioural issues are related to the use of drugs, but we do know that drug abuse amongst children between the ages of 9 and 25 is a growing problem.

There is so much controversy-surrounding drug testing at schools.

Drug testing in schools should not be used as a tool used to ‘catch scholars out’, but rather to prevent them from ever using drugs, as it is much harder for them to break their addiction. Peer pressure is a major cause for kids trying drugs. If the scholars were aware that the school is not going to tolerate any form of substance abuse and the scholar could stand the chance of not being selected for the sport’s team, for example, they might hesitate trying a drug and be able to say ‘No’.

Before drug testing a learner

There are some fundamental issues that need to be addressed before any learner is subjected to a drug test as follows:

  • Does the school policy include drug testing?
  • Has the parent/s or guardian/s read the school policy and consented to testing taking place?
  • Is the school running awareness programmes for teachers, pupils and parents alike?
  • At what stage would a test be performed and will the parents be informed before or after the test is performed?
  • Victimization between - pupils and teachers, teachers and teachers, teachers and pupils, pupils and pupils, what steps are in place to prevent this from happening?
  • Has any of the school staff received proper training to be able to perform drug tests?
  • How to review and interpret results,
  • Medications which may influence the test result,
  • Adulteration and substitution of urine, shy bladders,
  • Different drugs available on the market and
  • Addiction versus dependence
  • What type of test kit is being used, has it been adequately evaluated for accuracy and reliability by a reputable laboratory?
  • Saliva versus urine testing - impairment versus history – which to use when?
  • Are positive screen test results being followed up by laboratory confirmation?
  • Who will be paying for the tests that are to be performed?
  • Is there any referral facility parent/s, guardian/s and/or scholars can contact?

If more parents and/or guardians would approach the subject of drugs at home, it would not be left up to the teachers, coaches, school or our government to step in and take over the role of the parent and the parent’s responsibilities.

Imelda Neate is the CEO of Drug Testing Africa, a company which promotes and performs responsible drug testing, sells drug-testing equipment and runs substance of abuse education and awareness programmes.

Do you think that drug-testing in schools is going too far? Or not far enough?

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