School principals condemn underage drinking

Following reports of underage drinking after the Hoerskool Grens Sports Festival on March 11, school principals across the city released a public appeal on social media on March 14, pleading with parents to enforce stricter control of their children.

On March 13, the Daily Dispatch reported that masses of learners at the festival were seen drinking along pavements and in the road outside McJannet Drive in Baysville.

In a joint statement signed by SAPS and the principals of Selborne, Clarendon, Baysville, Stirling, Port Rex, Cambridge, Hudson Park, Beaconhurst and Hoerskool Grens, underage drinking was strongly condemned.

The statement reads “We as collective principals and the SAPS have noted the disquieting trend amongst our youth to gather in large numbers to socialise after weekend sports derby days. These gatherings occur mostly along Devereux Avenue and may include boys and girls as young as 12.

“According to SAPS, alcohol is always involved, inappropriate displays of public intimacy have also been reported on such occasions and possibly other illegal activities.

“As principals and educators, we can only take responsibility for your children while they are on our premises.

“We do advocate honourable behaviour and attempt to instill prudent social decisions, but we are unable to monitor this over weekends after the conclusion of fixtures.

“Our appeal is for parents to become more aware of where their children are, who their friends are, who they are staying over with and where they are once sports matches are over.

“It is natural for the youth to be inquisitive and experimental but it is our collective duty to protect them from unnecessary and avoidable harm.”

Jason MacDowell, ward 18 councillor, said that underage drinking is a recurring concern in the area.

He said, “The liquor store on Devereux Avenue was a problem because we had continuous issues after school events with pupils from various schools loitering around there.

“This year there was an illegal pens-down event at Nahoon Beach.

“SAPS tried to go down there and usher the kids on, but it took a long time for them to clear the area because there was drinking and even sexual activities going on.

“One of the underage girls was found wondering up the road later with no idea where she was or even who she was.”

According to Prestons on Devereux Avenue, store policy requires that anyone who could be regarded as underage be asked for a copy of their ID and no alcohol is sold to minors.

Prestons head office could not be reached for comment by time of going to print.

On February 22, at a ward 18 public meeting, residents in Vincent Park objected to Davidson’s OK MiniMark’s proposal to apply for liquor licence, on the grounds that it would encourage underage drinking amongst learners from Hudson Park and Port Rex.

Objections to the license

PUBLIC STATEMENT: East London school principals release joint message on social media. Picture: SUPPLIED

have been submitted by residents to the liquor board and an outcome is still pending.

MacDowell said “I am also experiencing issues with the liquor board because officials provide inconsistent distances from local churches and schools that determine how far away a retailer with a liquor license needs to be.

“One official has told me the distance is 100m, but the second time I went there I was told it’s 50m, however the legislation says 500m.”

Eastern Cape department of education spokesperson, Malibongwe Mtima said that parents must take responsibility for underage drinking.

He said, “Parents ought to accompany their children to and from the sports fixtures so that they do not have an opportunity to take detours to places where they have access to illicit substances.

“Education is a three-legged pot between the parents, the school officials, and the pupil. Once parents detach, children are bound to experiment.”

BCMM spokesperson Samkelo Ngwenya said “The issue of underage drinking has been reported to the Eastern Cape Liquor Board or SAPS where it has been found that a liquor outlet sells alcohol to underage persons.

“We urge all parents to play an active role in assisting the state to manage this problem.”

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