Twenty-two pupils at the Catholic-run St Mary’s Girls’ Secondary School in Lusaka have been suspended for allegedly smoking shisha, a tobacco that has become popular among youngsters. Shisha is a way of smoking tobacco, sometimes mixed with fruit or sugar molasses, through a bowl and hose or tube. The tube ends in a mouthpiece from which the smoker inhales the smoke.
The pupils were allegedly suspended last month after being caught by school authorities with smoking shisha pens, a technique which works through vaporisation, where the liquid is heated up to vaporisation. According to one of the school teachers, who sought anonymity, the pupils at the school hid the drug in their desk drawers in their classes.
“After being interrogated by the school management, they admitted their wrong. It was discovered that they smoke during their morning and lunch-time breaks. They admitted that the trend had been going on for a long time at the school,” the teacher said. The teacher said it was disappointing and shocking that a school which preaches Christian values and good morals has pupils going against the very principles that the school is known for.
“Since that incident, the school authorities are now on high alert and it will not hesitate to punish pupils found with the drug. Authorities have even threatened to expel pupils found with shisha to maintain the high standard and good reputation of the school,” the teacher said. The teacher said a staff meeting was held after the incident and resolved that any pupil found with shisha for a second time after being suspended would be expelled.
Some general workers at the school have told the Sunday Mail that the 22 pupils involved in smoking shisha are only a tip of the iceberg.
They said that many more girls are involved adding that the matter has been brought to the attention of the teachers.
“The school’s image is being dented by pupils, especially from wealthy families, because they are the ones who can afford to buy such expensive drugs,” one of the workers said.
School head teacher Agnes Zimba has refused to comment on the matter and referred all queries to the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB), who run all Catholic-owned schools. “Why should the media focus on reporting the negatives when there are a lot of positive things happening at this school? Focus on the positive aspects like when the school records good grades. Last year, we had 40 pupils who graduated with six points and none of you people came forward to report about it,” she said.
ZCCB Secretary General Cleophas Lungu also referred all queries to the Archdioceses of Lusaka because they are the ones running the institution.
Staff found at the Archdioceses of Lusaka secretariat said Archbishop Alick Banda, who was reportedly not in his office by press time, would only be able to respond to any queries after returning from a conference abroad.
Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary Kennedy Malama said shisha has negative health effects on those who take it and their safety is not guaranteed.
Dr Malama said shisha can cause chronic respiratory diseases and increases the chances of contracting tuberculosis. “Refrain from the habit of using shisha. What you do today will determine who you will become later in life. Your health and life are in your hands,” he said.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Study Group on Tobacco Product Regulation (TobReg), contrary to the popular belief, the smoke that comes from a water pipe contains numerous toxicants known to cause lung cancer, heart disease and other diseases.
WHO further reveals that a single session of smoking shisha yields a nicotine intake equivalent to more than one pack of cigarettes. This means that a shisha user can expect the same risk that cigarette smokers face.