Colombian consul heaps praise on secondary's anti-coke campaign
The Colombian ambassador to the UK has singled out an anti-cocaine project at a Scottish secondary and called for it to be replicated around the world.
Mauricio Rodriguez Munera (pictured) visited Girvan Academy in South Ayrshire, which has developed activities for its pupils as part of the Colombian government's Shared Responsibility campaign.
The initiative aims to educate the West about the second and third-hand consequences of Class A drug use on countries and communities where the coca plants are grown.
It is the last "terrible" consequences of cocaine that the Colombian authorities hope will make the next generation think twice before taking the drug. They also hope to highlight the dangers to Colombia's environment and rich biodiversity.
The work at Girvan is part of the Shared Responsibility campaign, which was launched in 2005. Mr Rodriguez, who recently visited the school, described it as an "excellent example" that the Colombian government would like to see repeated around the world.
"This is a model for schools not only in the UK, but in the world," he said. "I would like the pupils to know we now feel we are not alone in this battle, which has been very difficult."
Mr Rodriguez said education was the key to halting demand for cocaine. "If we provide the right information for young people, instil in them the right habits and values, we will be able to get them away from drugs," he said.
"Young people are sensitive to environmental matters, so this is a very clever way of engaging them."
Stephen Scholes, an S6 (sixth form) pupil at Girvan Academy, said: "When we go off to uni next year, we will feel confident to say (if offered drugs), 'not a chance'."
Stephen is one of three senior pupils who have spearheaded the school's work. They created a DVD about cocaine use in Scotland in which they interviewed politicians and former addicts and addressed the plight of Colombia, and presented the issues to teaching staff.
This led to S2 pupils, aged 12 and 13, coming off timetable for a month to pursue a cross-curricular project on the country. The pupils have also linked up with their peers in Colombia to exchange views, and organised a "white night" at a local youth cafe to raise awareness of the drug's impact.
"This is something new, instead of the usual lessons about drugs, where it's 'don't take drugs, do a crossword' - that's it sorted," Stephen said.
"I didn't realise the environmental and social impact of drugs. They don't just cause you to have a good or a bad time; there is a ripple effect through your family and community. And now we know there is also the Colombian element."
Shared Responsibility made clear the pointlessness of trying to live an eco-friendly lifestyle but taking cocaine at the weekend, he added. "It's not any use recycling, driving an electric car or buying local veg and then snorting a line of cocaine at the weekend."
The British Crime Survey shows that cocaine is the second most commonly used illegal drug in the UK after cannabis. Around 2.4 per cent of 16 to 59-year-olds say they have taken it in the past year, followed by ecstasy at 1.6 per cent and amphetamines at 1.3 per cent.
- The survey also estimates that 13.9 per cent of those aged 16 to 59 have used a Class A drug at least once, 3.4 per cent used at least one Class A drug last year, and 1.6 per cent last month.
- There was a large increase in cocaine use between 1998 and 2000, but the charity DrugScope says this is mainly in London and the South East.