HK school helps young drug addicts kick the habit

Tue Jun 23, 2009 2:18am EDT
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By Tan Ee Lyn

HONG KONG (Reuters Life!) - Ng Ka-chun was 13 when friends in Hong Kong introduced him to marijuana, psychotropic drugs and then ecstasy. But his world changed a year later, after he was sent to a school and drug rehabilitation center.

"I remember thinking it (marijuana) wasn't any different from a cigarette and then I tried ecstasy and ketamine. It was the same logic, they were quite the same as marijuana, they seemed less serious than heroin," said Ng, who was caught stealing.

Apart from learning to play the piano and guitar at the Christian Zheng Sheng College, he is now adept at handling audio-visual equipment and hopes to finish secondary school.

"I will be here for another two years to finish my secondary school and serve the rest of my probation ... I will study as much as I can, I want to be a trainer, outward bound teacher."

The use of psychotropic drugs has soared in Hong Kong in recent years with social workers and academics encountering addicts as young as nine years of age.

The spartan Zheng Sheng College stands alone on a small hilly island in Hong Kong. There are only eight toilets for its 120 students and a small shed serves as a canteen, classroom and study area at different times of the day.

Its principal Alman Chan, who is fighting to get a bigger premise for his students, believes that education is the only way to get young people back on track.

"We have so many young people involved in drugs in Hong Kong. They have to be educated ... schooling gives them a chance at life, empowering them, reconnecting them with society. Schooling creates a new status, they are students, not inmates," Chan said.   Continued...

<p>Eighteen-year-old Ng Ka-chun poses inside a dormitory at the Christian Zheng Sheng College, a drug rehabilitation centre, at a remote area on Hong Kong's Lantau island June 22, 2009. REUTERS/Bobby Yip</p>