Alarm over students’ new ways of sneaking drugs, contraband

Mobile phones hidden in shoe soles, sometimes dismantled and reassemble in the dormitories

In Summary

• Some students are sewing tablets, cigarettes or rolls of cannabis sativa in the hems of their clothes.

• Despite intense searches on reporting days, many students still manage to smuggle stuff into their dormitories.

Nakuru County Commissioner Erastus Mbui when he toured Oljorai primary school in Gilgil Sub County
Nakuru County Commissioner Erastus Mbui when he toured Oljorai primary school in Gilgil Sub County
Image: KNA

Teachers have recovered mobile phones from shoe soles and sanitary pads.

Other students are sewing tablets, cigarettes and rolls of bhang in the hems of their clothes. 

These are some of the creative ways students are using to sneak contraband into schools. Some of the outlawed goods are sneaked hidden in detergents.

Despite intense searches on reporting days, many students still manage to smuggle stuff into their dormitories.

In some schools, students have complained that they are forced to strip naked as teachers seek to ensure outlawed items are not smuggled. The students say they are searched in "all manner of places".

But the searches seem not to have deterred many. Instead, students have devised sophisticated ways of smuggling what they want.

Nakuru county director of education William Sugut said they have devised ingenious ways to sneak contrabands including accessing and abusing drugs.

He said the menace has reached epidemic proportions.

He said fruit juices, cigarettes and wines and spirits are among stuff being smuggled by the students.

Sugut said drug and substance abuse could be behind the rising cases of indiscipline, including arson attacks in schools.

Sneaking of mobile phones is the latest trend despite teachers linking the gadgets to rising crime and insecurity in schools.

“Unless we choose to bury our heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich, drugs are the most dangerous contraband that can find its way to school. The reality is that students are always a step ahead of their teachers in inventing new ways of smuggling and concealing outlawed items in school,” Sugut said.

He said some parents have contributed to crime and the unrests in schools because they "overprotect" their children when they are caught in deviant acts.

He said students fund smuggling drugs and other items will be treated as criminals.

“In many cases, contraband has been hidden in shoe soles, the seams of clothes and inside detergents. Creative students would carve out a section of the shoe sole and ‘bury’ the contraband before they are smuggled into schools," he said.

"We need the support of parents to control this threat. When schools are razed due to acts of indiscipline that are sometimes caused by use of narcotics, the burden is passed on to guardians and parents,” Sugut said.

The official also warned principals, saying their absence from schools has greatly contributed to poor management which leads to unrests.

“In some schools, the heads do not have substantive deputies. Instead, they assign the role to different teachers on a weekly basis leading to gaps in management and indiscipline among students," Sugut said.

"Students now watch pornographic and violent content on mobile phones that they sneak into schools. That is unacceptable. We will be cracking the whip and treating wayward learners as criminals,” Sugut said.

Nakuru county commissioner Erastus Mbui-Mwenda said a key way to check inflow of contrabands and indiscipline in schools was to adopt an open-door policy that allows students room for dialogue and ensure that their opinions are considered in the management of schools.

Mwenda suggests that structures be put in place so prefects are transformed into respected conveyors of information to the management. He said the current set up makes prefects to be viewed as authoritarian and representatives of the administration.

“Many cases of indiscipline in schools are referred to Guidance and Counseling departments most of them being manned by teachers who are not professional counselors. The teachers lack expert knowledge in drug and substance abuse and the life skills offered aren’t examinable and so the teachers use them to cover the syllabus. Once trust is cultivated teachers and school managers will get timely information on contrabands and impending unrests,” Mwenda said.

A teacher at one of the public boarding schools said they had discovered students sewing tablets, cigarettes or rolls of bhang in the hems of their clothes.

“Students abusing drugs have perfected the art of tearing a hole in the collar of the shirt or blouse and concealing the drugs there. Another favourite hiding place for drugs is in the hollow metal legs of chairs and desks with a stopper neatly holding everything inside. Sometimes students bring into schools chapatti and mandazi laced with narcotic substances,” the teacher said.

Some students dismantle mobile phones and distribute parts to their colleagues to sneak into the school as innocuous pieces of scrap.

"Once in the safety of dormitories, the phones are reassembled. Mobile phones are also wrapped in polythene papers and sunk inside tins of margarine especially on opening days.”

He said schoolgirls are aware they can seek lawful redress if  "searched inappropriately" and often exploit the protection to stash phones and drugs inside their sanitary pads, bras and pockets of their ‘bikers’.

“Even the most hawk-eyed teachers dread conducting searches on certain parts of female students as they do not want to get into problems,” Sugut said.

He said even textbooks have become potential couriers for hard drugs.

“It could be anything from unrolled tobacco, narcotics and prohibited tablets carefully tucked between pages,” he said.

A former secondary school board member John Ochanda Mbote said sneaking of contrabands into schools is usually facilitated by well-established cartels between students and workers.

“Most boarding schools conduct very thorough searches making it impossible for students to sneak in banned items. An elaborate chain of criminals sometimes work in cahoots with crooked support staff who smuggle the stuff in rolls of toilet paper, sugar, tins of cocoa and other unsuspecting items,” Mbote said.

He cites an incident where a gardener sneaked rolls of bhang and proceed to open the light switches and the electricity wall sockets in the washrooms, hide the drug inside and screw back the covers.

“We knew him as a very humble character above suspicion and nobody ever read any mischief. It was later discovered that he had developed a complicated code for communicating with the students who abused the drugs. He would signal them when he had replenished supplies behind the wall sockets and switches.”

He said some students pack the substances such as inhalants in toothpaste tubes, making the tube look new so as to evade detection. Others drill holes in bar soaps and pack marijuana rolls before sealing them.

Mwenda asked education authorities to map out and monitor schools that have been hit by a series of disturbances in the recent past.

“We have to create avenues where students can articulate their issues and also keep tabs on potential trouble makers. Children today consume huge media content which influences the way they think and act. Parents must never abdicate their responsibilities,” he said.

Sugut said there were plans to install CCTV cameras in all public schools to monitor students and members of staff.