The Get Connected drug use prevention programme for 12-14 year old school children started in Mauritius in January 2019. This skills-based programme is inspired and adapted from the European Union Unplugged Programme. It is in line with the UNODC International Standards on Drug Use Prevention and implemented with the support of UNODC. The start was preceded by the sensitization of top leadership of the Ministry of Education, Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research (MoEHRTESR) and Rectors and Managers of Secondary Schools on the programme. The prevention package was customized for the Mauritian setting and 40 Education Psychologists, Ministry of Health personnel and 2 NGOs were trained. The programme was officially launched by the Prime Minister in the presence of 4 other Ministers.
A unique feature of this programme is the inclusive partnership between the MoEHRTESR, Ministry of Health&Quality of Life, the private sector Cim Group, NGOs and UNODC.
In Phase 1, the programme was implemented in 24 schools with another 23 as control schools for evaluation purposes. Pre-tests were conducted in all 47 schools and post-test done at the end of the 12-week implementation. Some anecdotal impact has already noted already by the implementers. The full evaluation of Phase 1 will be conducted in January 2020 to allow for a 12-month post-programme impact maturation.
In his Budget Speech 2019-2020, the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance mentioned that ‘The drug use prevention programme which is currently in place in 48 schools will be extended to all secondary schools’. This meant national coverage for a school drug use prevention programme.
The teenagers who followed the programme had a few telling comments on it. They included ‘I loved all the lessons including the teacher. I had a very good time’; ‘The sessions were lively, pas gagne sommeil (no time to sleep’; ‘I loved all the games, top’; and ‘I learnt how to solve problems’.
Following this highest level political decision combined by resource allocation, Phase 2 of the programme will be implemented in all 148 secondary schools in Mauritius, both private and public, and is planned to start in January 2020. 296 teachers/educators will be trained in November 2019, 2 per school, and will be responsible for the implementation under the supervision of those already trained.
A handbook summarizing the 12 Get Connected lessons was published by Cim to facilitate the work of implementers. A self-evaluation is scheduled in January 2020.
This programme illustrates the combination of a number of critical elements which are essential for the success and impact of a programme, namely the highest political support together with the necessary budgetary allocation for national scale-up, backing a solid evidence-based prevention science and a trained and dedicated workforce.