As the first anniversary of the Enyobeni tavern tragedy approaches, the scourge of underage drinking continues to spread across the metro.
Earlier this year, pupils from more than 20 schools in the city were caught drinking at a sports festival at Grens Hoerskool and on weekends, are frequently caught drinking on Devereux Avenue and Nahoon beach.
Last week, hundreds of pupils flocked to the Quigney Esplanade to engage in underage drinking and a poster circulated two weeks ago advertised a back-to-school/pens down party in Gompo, promising alcohol for minors.
BCM spokesperson Samkelo Ngwenya encouraged parents to closely monitor their children’s movements, not to give large amounts of pocket money and to report any suspicion of underage drinking to the police.
Masithethe Counselling Services has spent 38 years providing support for vulnerable people, including pupils, struggling with addiction, abuse and trauma. They have programmes to support recovery, offer tools to navigate issues relating to addiction and have counselled 800,000 people.
Masithethe chair Jackie Orsmond, said easy and unmitigated access to the internet, coupled with peer pressure and absence of parental control and role models, exposed impressionable teenagers to damaging consequences.
She said: “Unfortunately, this is our new reality as new generations emerge. All that we can do is warn them of the dangers of underage drinking and create a safe space for them when they do indulge in this.
“One of our awareness programmes is parenting skills, where we educate parents on how to create a happy home and raise children successfully into well-functioning adults.
“The new generation are aware of their rights but do not have life experience, and not aware of the consequences of bad choices and decisions.
“There is a big need for good communication between parents and children.
“If we don’t address growing underage drinking, it will lead to higher rates of absences or lower grades in school; social problems such as violence; legal problems such as arrest for driving or physically hurting others; and rape and unplanned pregnancies.
“Serious health issues such as liver and lung cancers, and heart problems, can also arise as well as serious mental health issues like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders and addictions.
“Our health facilities are battling and taking strain and if this is not curbed soon, this will place more strain on these services. Already the department of health is on the brink of collapse.
“At Masithethe, we offer counselling and conduct awareness programmes about alcohol and drug abuse. Our focus is on education and focusing on your future. We have a leadership course during the July holidays and teach teens how to focus on their goals.
“Our tween life skills course focuses on life skills such as anti-bullying, alcohol and drug awareness, building good relations, good communication skills and managing money.
“The policing and law enforcement sectors responsible for curbing underage drinking are very under resourced and it may be a good idea to involve other stakeholders.
“The effects of underage drinking are felt by everyone, which makes it everyone’s problem.
If you or anyone you know is need of counselling or intervention, contact Masithethe at 043-722-2000, cell and WhatsApp 084-091-5410, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.