My neighbour told me smoking weed would make me a genius – says Mutare student in chronicle of how school’s health club helped him say no to drugs

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By Leopold Munhende

TAKEMORE Njekezana (17) could have been one of the many adolescents trudging urban streets dead-drunk, stoned or worse if he had listened to his neighbour’s advice that smoking weed would make him a genius at mathematics in 2021.

The orphaned Njekezana, now in his third year at Sakubva 1 High school considers himself lucky.

His saviour, says Njekezana, was the school’s Youth Advocates (YA) club which he had just joined, hoping it could improve his confidence.

Lessons on dangers associated with drug abuse, a day after joining the ‘not-so-uncommon’ advice came his way, were enough for him to dispel the overtures and rubbish sentiments shared among most of Zimbabwe’s school-going adolescents.

YA is a programme housed in schools and initiated post the Covid-19 pandemic to address issues affecting school-going children such as drug abuse, sexual reproductive health, leadership and climate change.

Funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) implemented by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), government and implementing by YA, the programme has, according to teachers who spoke to saved a lot of young lives which could have been lost to unending health scourges.

“Before I joined YA, I was anti-social, could not interact with others in the community and only spent my time with my brother in the ghetto,” said the visibly shy Njekezana.

“Some of our peers, neighbours would take drugs to boost their confidence, and said that it worked for them.

“One of them whom I regarded as an elder brother eventually approached me around the time I started secondary school and advised that if I smoke weed I would be good at mathematics.

“Because I had just joined the club, I was equipped with enough information to say no. Probably if I had not joined I would have agreed, experimented and not be in the current state.”


His situation is not unique; to put it into perspective the question ‘Does weed improve mathematics skills?’ on Google produces 52 million results, mostly experiences of youths from different countries regards the issue.

Instead of aiding their understanding; weed, marijuana, ganja, mbanje, nzoli or spliff actually increases chances of mental health problems such as depression, development lags and other psychological dysfunctions according to experts.

There is no scientific relationship between taking the hallucinogen and passing with flying colours.

Zimbabwe is currently battling to deal with an upsurge in cases of drug and substance abuse. Over 50% young people according to government are taking anything between weed, crystal-meth, cocaine, heroine and fentanyl.

YA Executive Director Tatenda Songore said their programme is meant to impart knowledge to pupils with hope they share it with their peers at school and communities to manage what has become a problem not just in Zimbabwe but across Africa.

“Post Covid-19 we have seen a trend, an increase in drug and substance abuse. A lot of young people are experiencing depression and mental disorders,” said Songore.

“What we did is design a programme that empowers adolescents in schools with knowledge skills and attitudes that enable them to cope with post shocks of Covid-19.

“We realised that a lot of young people are able to start conversations and open up to their peers, talking about issues they would be experiencing at a personal level.”

In January Harare Provincial Development Coordinator (PDC) Tafadzwa Muguti announced he had thorough investigations at Dominican Convent School in Harare where eight students were expelled for vaping, smoking of nicotine electronic cigarettes.

Posting on Twitter, Muguti said drug lords were targeting schools, particularly bright students in their bid to expand business.

YAZ’s strategy to involve students in dealing with the scourge is working however, according to Roman Catholic Church run St. Dominics high school upper six student Tinashe Chimanyi (18).

“After our discussions and lessons at school we share our knowledge in our communities,” said Chimanyi.

“We have friends who were already engaged in drug abuse, we managed to convince others to drop it but failed when it came to some who were beyond our capacity. We are still trying though.

“Using students to address this matter is good in the sense that we are peers and gets better results.”

The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) early February launched an anti-drugs blitz, “No to illicit drugs and substances” that has so far netted over 1,600 peddlers and users across the country.

Armed anti-riot officers are breaking into drug havens while police sniffer dogs search for more on the country’s major roads where roadblocks have been set up.