By Cuma Pantshwa

  • During National Anti-Drug Awareness Week, The Department of Social Development hosted a workshop for the Nxarhuni Village to address the prevalence of underage drinking and substance abuse, particularly during initiation season.
  • Stakeholders, including parents, law officials, and traditional leaders, emphasized the importance of setting positive examples and supporting each other in curbing substance abuse among youth.
  • The workshop highlighted the significant role of community and parental involvement in tackling substance abuse, echoing the year’s theme for International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking: “Listening to children and youth is the first step to help them grow healthy and safe against alcohol and drugs.”

June is recognised as one of the initiation months in the Eastern Cape and other parts of South Africa, where young men undergo the traditional rite of passage into adulthood. During a community workshop in Nxarhuni Village for National Anti-Drug Awareness Week (17-21 June), a concerned mother voiced her fears: “Soon social gatherings and celebrations are going to take over this village when our sons return home, and there will be a lot of alcohol, and we will find children drunk.” 

This week precedes the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, commemorated annually on 26 June, which aims to create awareness and educate communities about the effects and impact of substance abuse.

Community halls in Buffalo City became hubs for various stakeholders, including youth, law officials, liquor traders, traditional leaders, and especially parents, seeking information and support to curb underage drinking and substance abuse. South Africa has gained global recognition as one of the riskiest drinking countries, with a national review indicating high levels of binge drinking, especially among the youth, regardless of settlement type and socio-economic status.

In Nxarhuni, community members discussed the prevalence of underage drinking during homecoming celebrations for initiates. While these events are often joyous and festive, they can also become hotspots for substance abuse. Ms Albertina Sam emphasised the need for parents to set positive examples: “Intervention begins with us. We must model good behaviour for our children. It’s now initiation season; it doesn’t mean our children must see us drunk. We need to try and do better as parents.” Many stakeholders echoed this sentiment, stressing the crucial role parents play in shaping their children’s behaviours. One mother on stage remarked, “It all starts with self-love,” and discouraged parents from abandoning their children when they start experimenting with substances.

The workshop underscored the importance of the Ubuntu philosophy and the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” as key themes in combating substance abuse. Motshabi Nkoane, Social Work Policy Manager for the Substance Abuse programme at the Department of Social Development, encouraged community solidarity: “When your neighbour’s child has a problem with substance abuse, it’s not an opportunity to turn a blind eye or mock their situation; you need to participate and help.”

Mr Bongani Dyantyi from the Department of Social Development, in his closing remarks, expressed hope that parents felt empowered and informed about the supportive services available to them. He reiterated this year’s theme for the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking: “Listening to children and youth is the first step to help them grow healthy and safe against alcohol and drugs,” urging the community to invest in prevention and support their children.


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