South African children are drinking from a young age. Research findings show that our youth are drinking from as young as 13 years. One in two South African teenagers use alcohol, with 50% of learners indicating that they have consumed alcohol at some stage.
In a bid to address South Africa’s serious under-age drinking problem, the Association for Alcohol Responsibility and Education, (AWARE.org) has partnered with Altus Sport.
The collaboration is part of AWARE’s broader programme to reduce under-age drinking which involves a whole of society approach in educating youth and building life skills to help them make positive choices. In partnership with retailers and other Industry bodies, it also supports the enforcement of regulations including no sales to under 18s.
“AWARE has zero tolerance of under-age drinking and all activities that enable this harmful practice. To neglect this issue is to neglect our youth,” says Carmen Mohapi, CEO of AWARE.org. “The factors contributing to underage drinking are complex. Our children need to navigate a range of issues including the lack of age-appropriate recreational facilities and positive role models in many communities which exposes them to unsupervised free time during which they are at risk of engaging in negative behaviours like drinking.”
Working with Altus Sport allows AWARE.org to reach different schools around Gauteng during school and holiday periods to implement its flagship #NoToUnder18 campaign.
One of the first holiday programmes for this year, took place during the current school break at Thulani Primary School in Zola, Soweto. AWARE’s contribution includes a “Sportainer” a container which is converted into a comfortable, safe space where kids can read, play games and store their sporting equipment.
These activations help to empower young people with knowledge and information to enable them to make wise choices regarding the consumption of alcohol.
Sports, games, reading and support from Altus Sport Youth Leaders are some interventions through which education, awareness and positive role-modelling are delivered. These activities enable youth to deal with social factors that may influence their decisions such as peer pressure and adults who inadvertently allow underage drinking.
The Altus Sport Youth Leaders are nurtured to handle the role of leadership in total confidence. They motivate their peers and lead by example, teaching the next generation important life skills.
“Many kids are left alone during their school holidays with no supervision or beneficial activities. We combine school-based education and awareness with sport and recreation activities led by trained Youth Sport Leaders,” says Liana Laubscher, Managing Director at Altus Sport.
Alcohol consumption has been associated with a range of negative consequences on underage drinkers - such as impaired cognitive performance, physical health and psychosocial functioning. Consumption of alcohol by minors has been shown to impair their academic performance and increase school absenteeism. Longer-term, this has a knock-on effect in terms of their future success and job security.
“These activations are about empowering the youth and making them feel confident about themselves. Healthy physical activities combined with education about the dangers of alcohol use not only keeps the kids busy during the holidays, but encourages them to make positive life choices. Spending time with the kids at Thulani Primary school and seeing their bright smiles reminds us of why we are doing this. While building the future for the youth, we are also building the youth for the future,” says Mohapi, adding that AWARE’s intention is to collaborate with other organisations nationally in order to strengthen our country’s response to underage drinking.
In the heart of South Africa's communities, Aware.org and implementing partners have ignited a spark of hope. Together, we are forging a path towards a brighter future for our youth. Through education, mentorship, and healthy activities, we are building not just a future for the youth but a youth prepared for the future. As the bright smiles of children at Thulani Primary School illuminate the present, the promise of a safer, alcohol-responsible tomorrow shines ever brighter. Aware.org's mission is to stand as a beacon, inspiring others to join the fight against underage drinking nationwide. Our children's futures deserve nothing less.