The Alcohol Abuse Awareness Campaign, an initiative which targets the four Eastern Cape universities, enters its second year of trying to influence young students to drink responsibly. To date, the campaign has been involved in many of the campus oriented programs within the various institutions and has received rave reviews from some of the students that have interacted with the campaign organizers. It has also recently held a hugely successful official launch, in which some of the guests included the MEC for Economic Development, Hon. Oscar Mabuyane.

Key to the existence of the campaign is the growing need to warn students of the impending risks of drinking irresponsibly. And whilst it may seem like rhetoric, the escalating stats prove that university students are drinking more and more each year. And this in turn has a largely negative impact on both their studies, which tend to suffer as a consequence, as well as their overall safety and security within their own campuses, a space which is in fact traditionally a safe haven for all students.

At present, campuses have been facing multiple incidents that have been directly linked to substance abuse. This is a reality that has even been noted by student leaders of the participating universities. “Already we have witnessed incidents in the Alice campus where one student has Jackie Chan’d (Karate fly kicked) his female partner during an angry rage brought about by a heavy consumption of alcohol,” reflects Xolani Jaji a Students Representative Council (SRC) Member of Fort Hare University.

This is not an isolated incident and many other student leaders share the sentiment that alcohol abuse is at an all-time high within universities. And so do the deans, vice chancellors, lecturers, as well as other staff members that work in and around universities. But can this campaign make a meaningful contribution in the fight to combat this pandemic? “We certainly hope so,” says Khanyisa Ncana, director at Dantonetix, the organisation that handles the day to day operations of this campaign on behalf of the Eastern Cape Liquor Board.

“We have seen positive responses from students every time we have engaged them around this issue. Many of them agree that the status quo cannot be continued in this manner and something needs to change. If student leaders and those working within and/or around universities continue to work with us collectively in addressing this challenge, then I definitely do not see why we cannot make the type of impact that we envisage. And in fact already we have started to see the positive impact we are having as when we go to speak to the students we are embraced with open arms. I certainly hope that such positivity continues,” concludes Ncana.

Advocate Zuko Mapoma, a member of the board at the Eastern Cape Liquor Board, agrees that the program can be a major success if society at large gives it the wings that it demands. “Our view is that society can play a critical role in supporting the program itself, and encouraging the students to take the program seriously so that it can be a better intervention in the social fibre of our communities. Alcohol is here to stay, but it is important for us to make sure that the adverse consequences of its supply are adequately managed,” he said.

Time will tell if the program can get to its intended heights. A lot still needs to be done if it is to do so, both through the organizers, but also critically through society at large taking ownership of this noble initiative. One thing is for certain however, the program could not have come soon enough as students, whether they admit it or not, need a reality check when it comes to alcohol abuse.  Whether or not there can be a 100% sober youth remains rather optimistic, but the hope and intention is that at the very least, the program assists as many young people as realistically possible.

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