Township pupils are gambling with their future

2011-05-28 14:58

Rolling the dice and playing card games for money at school is putting pupils at risk.

Wits University research ­conducted on behalf of the ­National Gambling Board has shown that gambling ­compromises the psychological wellbeing, personal relations and school performance of learners.

It is estimated that there are ­proportionately four to five times as many children as adults who have gambling­-related problems worldwide, according to Professor Peter Collins, the executive ­director for the ­National Responsible ­Gambling Programme.

He said: “Learners usually ­gamble illegally among themselves and are easily tempted to bet more than they can afford in the hope of winning big. Then they have to spend their lunch money and – in some cases – beg, borrow and steal to go on playing.”

It is feared that much of this sort of gambling happens in townships, with card games, dice and fafi (a form of lottery in which you bet on a number and win money for ­picking the correct number) being played in the vicinity of shebeens and schools.

“It is a major challenge for us to try to address this group,” said ­Collins.

Moss Senye, the South ­African Democratic Teachers’ Union Gauteng chairperson, said that the lack of discipline was a serious issue in Soweto schools, with ­drinking and gambling two common problems.

Soweto learners interviewed by City Press admitted to ­gambling or having seen their friends gamble at school. They play card games or roll the dice for money, with some saying they normally bunk classes to gamble.

Gift Ndlovu (19), a 2009 ­matriculant at Morris Isaacson High School, concedes that gambling was rife at his former school.

He said it was distracting, ­adding that some learners were at school just to kill time.

“It is disheartening to see ­fellow learners gambling from early in the morning. They bet from R1 and the betting goes up every time.

“Teachers always stop it when they see it, but learners just get back to it the moment they leave,” said Ndlovu.

City Press found a group of students gambling at a school in Soweto. An 18-year-old grade?11 learner said he gambled for lunch money as his family could not ­afford to feed him. This was ­despite the school having recently introduced a feeding scheme.

Nonhlanhla Gama (18) from Mokgome High School said ­gambling was a problem at most schools, but she did not believe it was just about the money.

“It is not a lack of money that makes them play. You find that some learners are hooked on drugs and, to sustain their addiction, they have to find ­extra cash through ­gambling.

“If they hadn’t received ­money from their parents, they wouldn’t have any to gamble,” she said.

Herbert Chirwa (18), a ­matriculant at Meadowlands’ ABET centre, agreed. “Most of the pupils that gamble are also the ­usual culprits when it comes to drugs at school.”

Charles Phahlane, the Gauteng education spokesperson, said statistics on the prevalence of gambling at schools were not available. He warned that ­learners who were found gambling on school premises would face disciplinary action.

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