It’s been a year since Leondale Secondary/High School found itself in the centre of a controversy involving a shocking viral video clip showing learners smoking dagga on school premises to celebrate what has become known as ‘Dagga Day’.
Every year, ‘420’ (April 20) has become something of an unofficial holiday in some parts of the world, including the US, where it originated in the 70s. However, it was only until last year that ordinary South Africans got wind of this bizarre, widely spread celebrations in the aftermath of the Leondale High School dagga video.
In what the school’s deputy principal, Jerry Mtshali describes as a life-altering incident, this time the school governing body, along with the teachers, learners, parents and concerned community members didn’t want to leave anything to chance as they decided to take the bull by the horns and tackle the ensuing drug trend head-on.
On the day this year (Thursday, April 20), the school, together with the Johannesburg NGO World Changers Candidates, hosted an anti-drug awareness campaign, where a pledge was made to officially declare the school as a drug free zone, and subsequently denounce the ‘420 high holiday’.
“Last year during this period, we experienced a terrible, unprecedented ordeal, whereby some few learners were involved in smoking weed on school premises,” the deputy principal said, adding: “But on that day, it was the first time that I learned there was a 420′. I had never heard of such before, so one had to go and research. That’s when I learned that ‘420’ originated from California in the US, whereby students will converge at a corner at 4.20pm everyday in the afternoon to smoke weed. And I was told that this behavior grew to become a ritual, spreading to different countries, even South Africa. And unfortunately as an institution, it affected us.”
He added: “So we are saying today, that behaviour must stop. I want everyone one of you wearing that uniform, to declare that such a thing won’t happen again. In today’s event, let’s change that negative narrative. Let’s show our parents, communities and everyone here today that we’re a changed school. Let’s go back to our classes, and make that teaching and learning takes place as envisaged.”
Mtshali said they have kept track of all 36 pupils that were involved in the incident and subsequently suspended. “The learners were taken under the guidance of the World Changers Candidates, who initiated and supervised their rehabilitation.”
“Deal with the drug dealers, not just the drug takers”
Soweto Parliament leader and activist Nhlanhla ‘Lux’ Dlamini was one of the keynote speakers at the event. The former Operation Dudula leader sent a stern warning to drug traffickers, urging the learners to get a database of those who sell drugs in the community and send it to him.
“I know there are those who are selling drugs who are here to listen to what are we saying. I am not scared of them, I will deal with those people even if I have to fight my last breath.”
He adds: “We need to grab the bull by its horns, and make sure that we fight the drug dealers. They are the source of the problem.”
Nhlanhla Lux also talked about the importance of actively identifying and propelling to leadership positions, “young people that are taking action and are willing to take our communities and countries forward”. This speaks to what’s happening right now with two of the candidates from Leondale High School, Katlego Mabena and Nceba Ngwenya, who are social activists and have joined the World Changers Candidates as ambassadors.
One half of the duo, Ngwenya, is headed to Thailand later this Month (April 28), where he’ll be representing South Africa as one of the delegates from around the world chosen to participate in a stimulation conference by the United Nations’ Best Diplomats, a New York based diplomatic conference organiser tasked with training young, future diplomats.
The former Leondale High School learner was recently appointed the President of the civil organisation, Ekurhuleni Parliament, the first East Rand chapter of Soweto Parliament. The organisation, as Nhlanhla tells NOWinSA, allows apolitical youths wanting to participate in uplifting their communities to start and mobilise their ‘Parliaments’ within their own surrounds.