MORE than 28,000 Bahraini students have benefited from a nationwide campaign to combat violence and addiction.
The Ma'an (Together) project aims to increase awareness about the consequences of addiction and domestic and street violence in a bid to take the country's youth off the streets and into academic programmes.
It is being implemented by police officers in public and private schools across Bahrain to help prevent youngsters from becoming addicted to drugs, smoking and video games.
It features workshops, field trips, school visits and community activities in which students are exposed to the daily struggles of an addict and the dangers it poses to the person and society.
The programme was launched last year and is being conducted in co-operation with Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE), which is an international project founded in the US in 1983 by policemen to prevent drug use and violent acts.
It is the first of its kind in the region and is being spearheaded by Southern Governor Shaikh Abdulla bin Rashid Al Khalifa, following an agreement which was signed by Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa and Education Minister Dr Majid Al Nuaimi in February.
"We are the first country who made this initiative in the Middle East, which makes us a pioneer in this field and we are also the first in translating the materials into Arabic which might serve other countries in the region as well," said Ma'an director Ali Amini.
"Ma'an was organised with the help of a team from DARE which has trained two batches of 47 officers so far.
"Students aged six to 18 from 55 public and private schools are being guided by community service police officers who were trained carefully on how to handle youth and how to instruct them.
"Officers are being handed out schedules like any other teacher and they have to cover 10 sessions in one semester for each class.
"We have dealt with more than 28,000 students around the country and we have received a good response from their teachers and parents, as the children are forming a kind of friendship with their officers."
The programme is being carried out in both English and Arabic by policemen and women who apply out-of-the-box methods to reach out to youngsters.
"Children tend to be more comfortable with receiving instructions about such issues from someone in a uniform more than a regular teacher," said Mr Amini.
"They get to learn about personal safety, life skills, how to control feelings and how to make the right decisions through different mediums like workshops, field trips and school visits.
"We know that the results are not going to show immediately or in one phase, because it takes years to change people's habits, but we are very optimistic about it."