Mauritius: The Drug Use Prevention Programme, Rebound, a media-based life skills and risk education programme developed for young people in school settings, was launched yesterday, by the Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Tertiary Education, Science and Technology, Leela Devi Dookun-Luchoomun, at the Côte D’Or National Sports Complex.
The Director of the Health and Wellness Directorate of the Ministry of Education, Tertiary Education, Science and Technology, Dr (Ms) Neeshti Reetoo; the Consultant and Executive Director of the non-profit organisation Finder, Maxmillian Von Heyden; and other senior officials were also present.
In her address, the Vice Prime Minister emphasised that the Rebound Programme in educational institutions will empower Grade 10 students at school so as to enable them to develop the right risk competencies needed to build a felicitous and safe world around them.
Drug abuse prevention programmes should serve the purpose of educating our adolescents about potential risks while simultaneously fostering positive behavioural patterns like effective communication and healthy coping skills, she said.
According to her, the Programme will enable youth to develop a sense of personal responsibility, goal setting and making sound decisions, strengthening autonomous decision-making, positive group norms, and risk awareness. “By reinforcing resilience and providing valuable tools to face challenges, programmes like Rebound can help reduce the likelihood of developing mental health disorders like anxiety and depression”, she added.
Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun further dwelt on the progress achieved in the battle waged by the education system against drug addiction. They include: the launch of the Get Connected programme, sensitisation campaigns are undertaken by supporting organisations from outside the school, and the provision of early interventions and support services to further empower the student population.
While highlighting the harmful effects of drugs on the individual, family, the community around the school and society at large, she underlined that Government is sparing no effort to fight against the drug scourge in the country.
Speaking about the Get Connected Programme implemented in 2019; she underpinned that it is a life skills concept model aimed at delaying tobacco, alcohol and drug initiation among adolescents across all secondary schools. As of date, some 18,000 Grade 8 students have benefited from this Programme, and over 500 educators have been trained to deliver it, she indicated while adding that the Rebound programme will serve as a supplement to the Get Connected Programme.
The Vice Prime Minister also spelt out other initiatives that have been introduced for the wellness of learners. They range from swimming lessons for all Grade 4 pupils to After School sports, from the setting up of School Health Clubs to the Performing Arts. She reiterated the Ministry’s vision of strengthening the social and emotional well-being of learners. “At the end of the day, what we are in effect doing is to guarantee a generation of young persons into whose safe hands we can place tomorrow’s society”, she said.
For her part, Dr (Ms) Neeshti Reetoo highlighted that substance abuse is a serious issue that affects individuals, families, and communities. Tackling the drug scourge has been very high on the agenda of the Government, and a comprehensive approach has been adopted with the Prime Minister himself chairing the High-Level Council on HIV and Drugs, she recalled.
She also underlined that the Ministry had been an invaluable ally in the prevention of drug use at the national level by implementing evidence-based preventive drug use education as the first line of defence in the war against drugs.
She indicated that the UNODC World Drug Report of 2022 estimates that around 284 million people aged 15 to 64 years old have used drugs in 2020. This figure represents a 26% increase in the consumption of drugs over the previous decade.
In Mauritius, the National Survey of People who use drugs conducted in 2021 shows that the majority of people who use drugs were between the age of 18 to 24 years representing around 29% of the population surveyed. And 63% of the surveyed population used heroin, and 57% had used synthetic drugs in the past month prior to the survey, she said.
Dr Reetoo rejoiced that efforts to establish a safer and healthier environment for students had reached a significant milestone through the launching of the Rebound Programme. While lauding the unwavering dedication of educational psychologists and social workers in providing support services and spearheading previous drug use prevention initiatives, she urged all stakeholders to embrace collaboration and a shared vision of drug-free schools.
“Let us envisage a future in which our students can concentrate on their education without being hampered by substance abuse”, she added.
As for the Consultant, Maxmillian Von Heyden, he underscored that the Rebound Programme is a drug use prevention programme for students aged 14 to 25 years which has been developed to achieve long-term effects in contrast to quick fix attempts. He said that its goals include cognitive, developmental and environmental dimensions while adding that the Programme is facilitated by teachers and other professionals and supported by peer mentors.
Objectives of the Rebound Programme:
Rebound is a health promotion/prevention programme entirely developed in collaboration with those for whom it is intended, i.e. students, facilitators, and school administrators. The current Programme focuses on substance abuse prevention.
Its objectives are: Strengthening risk competence; supporting young people in strength recognition and reflective decision-making; development of risk competence regarding alcohol and other drugs; building positive developmental assets such as cognitive and emotional competence, self-perception of one’s strengths and self-efficacy; strengthening autonomous decision-making, positive group norms and risk awareness; and improving the quality of life by providing mentoring, advocacy and life skills counselling services to students.