The Punjab Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department has developed the Student Health Profile Portal, a web-based application system to keep an eye on the physical and mental health of school students and curb drug use.
According to a statement issued by the department, it aims to keep a track of relapses and ensure rehabilitation of drug users. It will be working with the School Education Department to help screen students across the province once a year.
A team of doctors, psychiatrists and mental health experts will interview students. Those suspected of using drugs will be routed to rehabilitation centres or, if they’re found to be physically unfit, to hospitals.
A separate IT department will ensure that the application runs smoothly.
Teachers will be given access to the application and guided how to use it to input pupils’ data.
Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department Secretary Captain (retd) Muhammad Usman explained that the ministry plans to combat the issue with a three-phase plan. “In the first phase, all public schools will screen their students annually,” he told SAMAA TV on its programme Naya Din on Wednesday. “This will be mandatory for everyone.”
Usman added that screenings are a better option than blood tests because, as he put it, addicts can be identified by sight.
He said the second phase includes screening of private school students, and prisoners. The third phase will focus on rehabilitation, which Usman believes is very irregular across Pakistan.
“Many drug users drop out during the rehab process, some quit or run away,” he said.
“We don’t have any kind of online profiling of drug users. We then don’t know when they began their treatment or when they quit.”
Usman assured that the students’ information would be protected. He said only their parents will be informed about their drug use.
He claimed that this was the first time such data was being collected and put online, which will help inform parents if their child runs away from the rehab centres.
Private and public hospitals will also help in the process.
Usman agreed that “rampant” drug abuse by students at educational institutions will not stop unless authorities and parents both do something.
He said instead of teachers, parents must be held responsible for their kids’ actions. He was of the opinion that people consider discussing drug-related issues taboo and avoid speaking about it openly.
‘Don’t intimate drugs users’
Palwasha Shahab, a former HRCP official, thinks the Punjab department should reframe their three-step strategy.
“It should be the other way around,” she told SAMAA Digital, meaning that the rehab process should be carried out first.
“You are dealing with juveniles. You have to be very careful that you don’t intimidate them.”
Shahab stressed that the ministry should get the parents’ consent before screening the students.
“It is possible that the parents know of their children’s problem. Maybe the kid is already being rehabilitated,” she said.
“Rather than tracking down people, the State should begin programmes that encourage people to participate voluntarily.”