THE LAST STRAW: The cast of The Last Straw, from Left to Right Shanice Mnyandu, Londiwe Ngwazi and Celean Macken, act out a dramatic scene for learners at Kearsney Primary School in KwaDukuza. PICTURE: PIERRE TOSTEE
Last week, Thursday October 20, learners at Kearsney Primary School in KwaDukuza watched “The Last Straw”, an educational and informative anti-drug isiZulu roadshow produced by renowned Durban theatre legend Peter Court.
Court, the creative arts implementation partner for the MRP Foundation’s Schools Programme, has vast international theatre experience and invaluable teaching skills, which he has used to help build confidence in teachers and impart life skills to learners through the programme. The roadshow was performed for 1500 learners over three days at five of the MRP Foundation supported schools including Aldinville Senior Primary School, St. Christopher’s Primary School, Nyakana Combined Primary School and Zulingesle Primary School.
According to Court, there has been a significant increase in the use of drugs, especially Whoonga, amongst learners. “Whoonga has become a huge problem in KZN and South African schools and the average age of a new addict is 12 years old. Learners need to understand that one is too many, and a thousand never enough,” said Court.
The production focuses on three characters, Asanda, a young girl arriving at a new school who desperately wants to fit in. She falls in with the wrong crowd, and is used as a drug mule to bring Whoonga into the school. Nathan, a boy of 14, with the potential and skills to become a world-class soccer player starts selling drugs outside the school in order to fund his new football boots. And Mondi, a 15 year old, who never fitted in at school, and has been used by the Ammacharma boys gang since he was nine as a gopher, hijacker, and later as a drug dealer.
These are true life scenarios, that come to tragic conclusions. The scenes were interspersed with recorded plees from Whoonga addicts (now living on the streets) for kids to stay drug free, sober and work towards a better life.
The cast of “The Last Straw” are Coloured Diamond, Shanice Mnyandu, Londiwe Ngwazi and Annie McGinn (Purple Annie - the DJ and Drug and Addiction Specialist) and supported by Zanele Mhlongo.
Whoonga commonly known as “Sugars”, is sold in a powder form. It is made up of a mixture of low-grade heroine and additives such as rat poison. It is usually mixed with dagga and smoked. It is highly addictive even after just a single use. Withdrawal symptoms include severe body pains, headaches, stomach pains, profuse sweating, diarrhoea, vomiting and muscle spasms. The only relief from the agonising pain is take more of the drug, therefore becoming a vicious cycle.
Anele Dludla, a grade 8 learner at the school said, “The play was really good as it taught us a lesson not to touch drugs as drugs can kill you!”
Principal of Kearsney Primary School Mr J. Deodat said, “We really appreciate the show that was produced for our learners. Judging by their positive response, it is a clear indication that the message has got through to them.” He added that although learners at the school come from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, the school has only had two incidents involving drugs in the past five years. In both instances the learners were successfully rehabilitated.
Ngoako Selamolela, Parliamentary Officer for the Department of Higher Education and Training, who watched the roadshow said, “Peter’s show was really impactful on the learners. The MRP Foundation is doing a fantastic job with the schools and their investment in education is much appreciated.”