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Brazil’s National School-based Drug Education Program

At the July 5 meeting of the Prevention Working Group of the Toronto Drug Strategy, Dr. Ines Gandolfo Concepcion, from the University of Brasilia, presented Curso de Prevenção do uso de Drogas, a national school-based drug education program.

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The program was created by the National Anti-Drug Secretariat, in conjunction with the Ministry of Education and the University of Brasilia, in line with Brazil's National Policy on Drugs and "Crack Can be Conquered!" campaign. Brazil is currently experiencing a crack cocaine epidemic, likened to that of the United States in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The policy includes the following under general guidelines for prevention:

"Preventive action must be planned and geared toward human development; education for healthy living; access to cultural assets, including sports, cultural, and leisure activities; dissemination of knowledge about drugs validated by scientific information; encouragement of youth leadership; and the role of family, school and community in replicating such activities."

The accredited distance-based learning course trains public school teachers on the prevention of drug use in public schools using a non-judgmental curriculum. The extensive training hopes to shift the negative attitudes and biases of public school teachers who traditionally use shock tactics when dealing with drug use. Rather than presenting basic drug information (as in the past), the text and video-based curriculum encourages students to become actively engaged in the learning process. The program insludes a final project which requires each school to implement a prevention-focused initiative in their community.Teachers have access to a virtual learning platform and tutors who provide guidance on all aspects of the program.

The program piloted in 2004, with an enrollment of 5000 teachers. Now in its fifth cycle, the program is steadily growing with an enrollment of 70 000 teachers in 2012. The program also recognizes and rewards those teachers and school with the best prevention initiatives. The program aims to educate 210 000 public school teachers (and 3 300 military police instructors) by 2014.

However, almost 20% of Brazilian youth either don't enroll in highschool or drop out before graduating. The program is currently investigating ways of reaching youth outside formal education.

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