Cambodia’s first anti-drug library raises awareness among students


A teacher guides a ninth-grade student on the use of the anti-drug library’s dedicated software programme. - PPP

PHNOM PENH: In the new anti-drug library at Boeung Trabek High School in Phnom Penh, computer programmes share a wealth of educational materials and videos about the harmful effects of illegal drugs.

Numerous students engage in learning about narcotics through the facility’s exhaustive collection of research papers and textbooks, all of which are now digitally accessible, transforming the learning experience.

The anti-drug library, the nation’s first, opened on December 25 last year. It offers students convenient access to resources that allow them to research the drug problem, which is integrated into the high school’s curriculum.

The centre features 20 computers and air conditioning. It is also decorated with informative posters that illustrate the harmful effects of drug abuse.

The library was established with support from the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD) and the Chinese embassy.

It is the first of its kind, with plans for similar establishments in Stung Treng, Kampong Cham, Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Speu, Prey Veng and Kandal provinces.

“Through the library, I was able to learn all about different types of drugs and how to avoid them. I really like the new library – it is so much more modern than the ones I am used to. Traditionally, they only have books and electric fans, so using a computer in an aircon room felt very different,” says Hang Visoth, a ninth-grade student.

He says he now realises that understanding the effects of drugs is crucial. He urges other students to take the time to find out more, so they can steer clear of drugs and drug-related issues.

Sambath Ratanakpanha, a Grade 9 student at the school, talks about her experience of accessing documents in the library. She finds that digital documents are extremely useful for conducting research and acquiring critical knowledge, as she prefers to digitally rather than using textbooks.

“I found the library very useful, because I really didn’t know much about the drug issue before I came here. Now I have a better understanding of what drugs are, and how to avoid them,” she explains.

Her classmate Yeung Sophearith also shares his experience about visiting the new library. Initially intrigued by its differences from other libraries, he found valuable information about the drug problem, especially through easily understandable short educational videos.

“I come here to learn about drugs, how to understand them, and how to prevent their misuse. In the past, my knowledge about drugs was limited to what I saw in the media. I now realise that conducting my own research helps me to learn more details,” he explains.

Sophearith notes that accessing research materials on the computers is straightforward with the assistance of the library staff, who help locate files, even for students unfamiliar with computer use.

Hun Lao, acting director of the high school’s library, notes that since the establishment of the anti-drug library, other schools have reached out to utilise its digital resources.

“The library operates from Monday to Saturday, providing students with ample research opportunities on a rotational basis. Schools coordinate with our staff to ensure their students can visit at different times, preventing overcrowding. This is extremely necessary, due to high demand for this innovative facility,” he says.

He adds that the library aims to enhance student research, promote education and combat the use of illegal drugs. The goal is to create drug-free families, communities and society.

He notes that students also acquire extra computer skills by engaging with drug-related reading and listening materials, as well as other topics.

“While the primary focus of this library is anti-drug materials, students can explore a variety of documents beyond drug-related content, as we have incorporated a range of resources into the library,” he says.

Another student, 14-year-old Ian Thanu, shares his concerns about the impacts of the current drug problem on society. He highlights legal consequences, mental health issues and increased crime as just some of the risks associated with drug use.

He says he supports the establishment of the facility, and others like it, as it provides valuable education resources to students with a limited understanding of illicit substances.

“I believe it’s very necessary, because some students lack awareness of the effects of drugs. Visiting this library will also equip them prevention strategies,” Thanu says.

He explains that the drug education programme on the library computers is now part of the ninth-grade curriculum. After using the library, he can clearly see the toll that legal and illegal drugs take on the health of users.

Student Sam Yanut says she has visited the library twice.

“In the library, there are numerous videos, materials and books for students of all ages, spanning primary to secondary school,” she adds.

She also notes that she especially appreciates the videos and books related to drugs, especially those with quizzes.

“The library’s message is clear: we must resist drug use, as it can adversely affect our well-being. Illegal drug consumption contributes to societal unrest, personal insecurity and puts a strain on family relationships,” she says.

NACD secretary-general Meas Vyrith shares his concerns about the troubling prevalence of drug trafficking, production and synthesis across the region. He underscores its potential impact on the future of young people, and acknowledges the ongoing struggle against drugs.

He says he is grateful to educational institutions for actively collaborating with the NACD to raise awareness about the effects of various drugs on children and youth, contributing to nationwide efforts to curb drug use.

“I anticipate that this library will receive further support from the Chinese embassy, particularly regarding the dangers and prevention of illegal drug use. We aim to enhance the knowledge of both students and their educators, so they become active participants in the fight against drugs,” he adds.

He states that from 2017 to 2023, the police investigated over 55,000 drug offences, leading to the detention of more than 120,000 suspects. Authorities seized in excess of 27.5 tonnes of illegal narcotics and nearly 520 tonnes of chemical precursors during this period.

In addition, police targeted 435 cases involving organised criminal gangs, leading to the arrest of 164 ringleaders and 811 of their accomplices, all of whom were referred to the courts. - The Phnom Penh Post/ANN

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