NCDA urges entertainers to speak out for drug awareness
November is Drug Awareness Month, and the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) is working hard to get more of Jamaica's youth as well as public figures on board with the ongoing Youth Ganja Public Education Campaign.
Paulette Smith, NCDA's director of corporate services, said, "There is a general misconception that the NCDA is responsible for public education on the topic of drug abuse, especially as it relates to our youth, but we require the help of other persons, especially parents, teachers, and guidance counsellors."
The NCDA has been meticulously campaigning against drug abuse, especially marijuana, by emphasising, 'Protect our Youth, Protect our future.'
"The campaign is about not smoking, but young people see through the 'do as I say but not as I do', so we are looking for persons who are not only willing to speak, but who also do not participate in smoking," Smith said.
"We encourage more persons from the music community to join the campaign; however, there is a general fear about reaching out. For many, the perception as a weed smoker is important to their circles, especially those who sing the weed songs," she added.
Smith also expressed her concerns that while alcohol has regulations in regard to age limit and consumption, marijuana does not. This is one of the reasons for the NCDA moving into the schools with the campaign along with the help of reggae/dancehall artistes like Ikaya and Devin Di Dakta.
Part of the campaign includes targeting 100 schools, 400 students each to participate in a 'Talk di Truth' programme. Smith and her team visit the schools, train the students who, in turn, become peer leaders. The peer leaders, with the help of the administrative body, are expected to use their creativity to develop an edutainment project to engage the rest of their school population.
"The entertainers are involved by going to the schools, and having Devin Di Dakta and Ikaya on board has made them more excited. Some schools have painted murals on their campuses, through music and even organising lunchtime school walks. [What] schools and surrounding communities need are the hands that protect the children from ganja smoking," Smith said.
There is also a concern that many entertainers' lyrics have promoted the use of marijuana or have images circulating on social media doing so, and that is where the NCDA has employed social-media strategies, including a web series to speak with public figures and persons in various communities on the topic of smoking marijuana.
"The young people are not reading about these topics in print, but we can engage them on social media; there they can tell me if I am doing foolishness and I can tell them. It is also easier to monitor by way of knowing what they like and dislike."
The entertainers (signed on as ambassadors) are preparing for a school tour in St Elizabeth scheduled for November 10 and 24, and they are going to do it in collaboration with the ZIP FM tour, performing at a number of events within the schools on behalf of the NCDA as well.