Taverns that are located close to schools, still pose a huge problem in Gauteng. Research conducted by the Soul City Institute and STRIVE Consortium found that young people have easy access to alcohol in their communities.
Exacerbating the problem is that the communities are densely populated with alcohol outlets. Many are in close proximity to schools, with unrestricted entry for teenagers younger than 18 years.
Young kids fill the narrow streets of Alexandra, playing where shacks and brick structures encroach on pedestrian walkways. Not far from where the little ones play is an alcohol outlet with adults sitting outside drinking in broad daylight for all, including the young, to witness. Young boys in grey pants and school shoes walk down 10th avenue, puffing cigarettes.
Hella Ledwaba is the founding director of Vuka Skhokho: The Jermaine Lungile Schmidt Foundation, a youth care organisation that deals with drug and other substance abuse. Ledwada says alcohol is the most abused substance in the country.
Ledwaba says it starts with alcohol and cigarettes, followed by marijuana and other harder substances.
“And then drugs like crystal meth, rock and nyaope etc. Because alcohol use and the abuse are so socially acceptable, it is even harder for people to view it as the serious problem that it already is. Children are exposed to drunk adults and behaviour daily in our communities and are expected to view this as a norm.”
She says this is the reason why children see it as normal behaviour.
“School children who have zero exposure to sports or extra curriculum activities are bound to be abusing alcohol from an early age for entertainment, especially with taverns located near most schools. Children then learn escapism through alcohol. They then learn substance can release them from boredom, frustrations, pains and trauma. Children then learn that there are other substances that are easy to hide and these drugs are a lot to hide,” laments Ledwaba.
Tshepo Mohape is a concerned parent opposed to bottle stores and taverns being close to schools.
“They expose children to what has broken their parents’ dreams and therefore breaking their own dreams. We have seen images of young children drinking in public, it’s really heartbreaking. I would rather have libraries and bookstores close to school. I do understand that people need to make money and alcohol is an easy way but we really need to find a solution.”
Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance in SA Board Chairperson Bongiwe Ndondo says alcohol is glamourised in SA:
Ledwaba says alcohol is often used as a coping mechanism.
“They engage in acts of violence, unprotected sex. Teenage pregnancy, acts of violence and no recollection, but what I find scary are the metal health illnesses that are a consequence of alcohol and this is anxiety and depression and depression often leads to suicide.”
He says children need to be taught coping mechanisms and the foundation is working on creating safe spaces.
Lucky Ntimane from the National Liquor Traders says the problematic establishments are unlicensed shebeens in townships.
“The duty to issue a liquor licence lies squarely with the competent liquor authority which has a right to refuse a liquor licence application based on certain conditions which will include, but not limited to proximity to schools and churches. Liquor boards are the competent authority tasked with enforcing licence regulations working in conjunction with SAPS. Any noncompliance taking place, a tavern can be dealt with by the liquor board upon receiving a complaint from a member of society or community.”
Ntimane says all liquor manufacturers run alcohol harm reduction initiatives that focus on responsible trading and consumption of alcohol and these programmes are ongoing across the country at selected taverns.
Ledwaba, however, emphasised that alcohol abuse cut across all demographic and income groups.
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