Project combats underage drinking

2018-06-06 06:02

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A pilot programme aimed at tackling the binge drinking of youth will be launched in four schools within Botshabelo.

This is the first phase of the initiative to target schools in Botshabelo.

The Hohle Primary School, Ntemoseng Senior Secondary, Leratong Secondary and the Pontsheng Primary School will be involved in this programme.

The theme is “A better tomorrow starts today”.

Launched in Bloemfontein on 24 May, the project is also implemented in other provinces.

It is piloted by the Association for Alcohol Responsibility and Education (Aware.org).

In the Free State, the initiative is supported by the Free State Gambling, Liquor and Tourism Authority, the Department of Health and the Department of Education.

Ingrid Louw, chief executive officer of Aware.org, said these partners were integral in realising sustainable change, as they operate on the ground.

The launch followed research by the World Health Organisation (WHO), revealing that South Africa is the 19th largest alcohol consu­ming nation in the world and the third largest in Africa.

Binge drinking rise in SA is a legislation regulating the age limitation in the country with the chief objective to curb the challenge of the alcohol abuse especially by youth.

The legal drinking age in South Africa is 18.

Despite the legislation, Louw said the research found that teenagers were drinking alcohol from an early age.

“Research indicates that young people are consuming alcohol from as early as 13 to 15 years. To tackle this pro­blem, we must start the conversation earlier,” she said.

“This is the rationale behind our programme. Curbing underage drinking is a key pillar in Aware.org’s broader programme to drive social change and promote responsible drinking.

“The programme aims to change the behaviour of junior high school learners (Gr. 8 and Gr. 9) with regards to alcohol,” Louw said.

“This will mean changing harmful attitudes and practices regarding alcohol by changing the attitude towards underage drinking within the broader community in which these learners live.”

Louw said research paints a bleak picture about South African youth.

“Underage drinking is firmly established in South Africa. One in two teenagers are active consumers of alcohol, and 15% of males and 8% of females have had their first drink before the age of 13.”

According to the MEC for Health, Montsheng Tsiu, this is a critical matter that affects the well-being of the nation.

“We should never take it lightly, but rather accept it as a challenge that needs immediate attention to resolve.

“We may like to ignore the ratings, but statistics never lie.”

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