Use of drugs by school children in both urban and rural areas of Sri Lanka has been a growing concern particularly because it can lead to long-term addictions and various socio-economic problems such as school drop-out and other adverse effects on their personal health, family life and social interaction.
Whilst awareness creation among school children is critical, it is also believed that by equipping teachers and parents with a proper understanding of the risks and dangers of drug use and the importance of creating an enabling environment to support drug prevention, the probability of children engaging in drug-user behaviours can be minimised.
In this context, John Keells Foundation (JKF) – the CSR entity of the John Keells Group – piloted a school-based Substance Abuse Prevention Project under its focus area of Health in collaboration with the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board (NDDCB) – pioneer Government Institution that work towards preventing substance abuse in Sri Lanka.
Under the pilot programme, two teacher training workshops were conducted empowering 45 teachers and 3 principals representing 41 schools from the Colombo Education Zone and 60 teachers and 2 principals representing 50 schools from the Sri Jayewardenepura Education Zone. Both programmes were conducted in collaboration with the Ministry of Education.
Addressing the audience at the inauguration of the workshops, Dr. Laknath Welagedara, Chairman, NDDCB stated, “Under the supervision of the Ministry of Defense and in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, NDDCB initiated ‘Shiksha’ – a National programme focused on educating teachers, students and the community on preventing substance abuse. I believe that a great responsibility lies within the teachers, the Ministry of Education and all of us to build a generation of children who are capable of rejecting illegal substances and making the right decisions”.
“John Keells Foundation, which contributes to a wide range of activities to enhance the development of the country, should be commended for its invaluable service. This program is launched with their full funding support and I would like to take this opportunity to extend my gratitude to them for supporting the NDDCB in this worthy cause,” he also stated.
The 3-day interactive workshops provided teachers comprehensive knowledge and skills to identify students with substance abuse related issues, ways to deal with such students, where to seek help and how to prevent cases from taking place. The trained teachers are mandated to incorporate learnings at Health and Physical Education classes in their respective schools with the aim of building positive attitudes and values amongst schoolchildren and communities to build a productive, safe and healthy society and are due to be evaluated on the outcomes.
Speaking at the closing ceremony, at which certificates were distributed to the workshop participants, Ms. Carmeline Jayasuriya, Head of Operations of John Keells Foundation, stated, “To develop a healthy and productive society, we need to ensure the physical, mental and emotional health of its members. We are well aware of the negative and long-term consequences of drug abuse, particularly among children and youth”.
“As teachers, you have a unique role in educating and supporting our children to avoid and resist addictive influences, and I urge you to use the learnings and insights you have gained from this workshop for this purpose towards achieving the end goals of the ‘Shiksha’ programme. I take this opportunity to commend NDDCB for conducting two successful workshops with the support of the Zonal Education Offices of Colombo and Sri Jayewardenepura amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she also stated.
- L. G. P. Priyantha form Kottawa Dharmapala Maha Vidyalaya said, “As a counsellor teacher, I was keen to participate in this programme to update my knowledge. I have been a part of similar programmes on substance abuse prevention but this programme was completely different as it was an interactive programme that was conducted by a team of experts who provided us a platform to voice our concerns as well”.
“I would like to extend my appreciation to NDDCB, the Ministry of Education and John Keells Foundation for conducting the programme and I would also like to take this opportunity to assure you that we will always strive to plant the seeds you inculcated and take this message to the schools to ensure that the students reap its benefits,” he also said.
Health is one of the six focus areas of John Keells Foundation – the CSR entity of John Keells Holdings PLC (JKH), Sri Lanka’s largest listed conglomerate in the Colombo Stock Exchange operating over 70 companies in 7 diverse industry sectors.
With a history of over 150 years, John Keells Group provides employment to over 14,000 persons and has been ranked as Sri Lanka’s ‘Most Respected Entity’ for the last 15 Years by LMD Magazine.
Whilst being a full member of the World Economic Forum and a Participant of the UN Global Compact, JKH drives its CSR vision of ‘Empowering the Nation for Tomorrow’ through John Keells Foundation and through the social entrepreneurship initiative, ‘Plasticcycle’, which is a catalyst in significantly reducing plastic pollution in Sri Lanka.