Rampant drug misuse among Zim youths
IT is often said that youths are the future. Indeed, without them, there can never be any future to talk of. One Nigerian academic, Oniovokukor Bright Ejakporvi, wrote in 2008 that while the youthful age is a very important stage in the life of an individual — full of energy, ideas, zeal to work etc — this is no doubt the reason why when youths choose to use their energy to perpetuate negative acts, the result is usually devastating.
Ejakporvi had been prompted to make the observation after noting that Nigerian youths were being used as errand boys by adults in the society, thereby brainwashing them for their selfish activities. Zimbabwe is today grappling with its own peculiar situation relating to the youths, which makes one cringe with trepidation when they think about the country’s future. This is because of the rampant abuse of drugs among the country’s youths most of whom are failing to find job opportunities due to de-industrialisation of Zimbabwe’s economy.
Zimbabwe is said to have the highest youth unemployment in southern Africa, according to the International Council Committee. Youths have the highest unemployment rate among all age groups in Zimbabwe. In 2008, only 480 000 were formally employed, down from 3,6 million in 2003. Because they cannot find jobs, the majority of youths are turning to drugs to while away the hours.
Statistics from the Anti-Drug Abuse Association of Zimbabwe reveal that drug abuse in local schools has reached alarming proportions with 43 percent of students interviewed last year indicating that they know of schoolmates who smoke cigarettes.
Various other bodies have churned out depressing statistics pointing to the abuse of drugs by the youths. Last year, a report produced by the police to mark the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking revealed that Harare had the highest rate of drug abuse in the country between 2013 and 2014 with over 100 cases having been recorded monthly.
Also last year, the Ministry of Health and Child Care’s Department of Mental Health indicated that 135 drug-induced psychosis admissions were recorded at Harare Hospital alone in 2013, with 865 outpatients documented in the same year.
Statistics presented by the Zimbabwe United Nations Association youth president, Mcleo Mapfumo, last year revealed that about 65 percent of Zimbabwean youths suffer from mental problems due to drug and substance abuse, and unemployment.
Recent reports from Mutare showed that seven school girls from Dangamvura and St Joseph’s high school were arrested after they were caught red-handed smoking cannabis or mbanje indicating that drug abuse is nationwide and is not gender based.
Reacting to the girls’ escapades with drugs immediately after the case came to light, acting Manicaland education director, Andrew Chigumira, bemoaned the rogue behaviour that had been exhibited by the pupils. “This behaviour is totally unacceptable in our schools, let alone when girls abuse drugs to such proportions. What I am sure of is that we are going to inquire and we need full reports of what transpired,” he said. It is not known what happened after the investigation.
Very little is being done to stem drug abuse in schools by the country’s army of unemployed youths. Youths who use alcohol and other drugs persistently face an array of possible consequences. At school, drug abuse often result in a lowered commitment to education, declining grades, absenteeism from school and increased potential for dropping out.
There are also health and safety consequences related to drug abuse such as accidental injuries, physical disabilities, diseases, and possible overdoses. Drug-related suicides, homicides, accidents, and illnesses may result in death for some youths. Youths who use alcohol and other drugs may be alienated from and stigmatised by their peers. They often disengage from school and community activities because of their substance abuse, depriving their peers and communities of the positive contributions they might otherwise make.
Substance abuse also jeopardises many aspects of family life and may result in dysfunctional families. Monetary expenditures and emotional distress related to alcohol and drug-related crimes by youths affect many others in the community. Often there is an additional burden for the support of adolescents and young adults who are not able to support themselves.
In its own small way, a non-governmental organisation, Active Youth Zimbabwe (AYZ), is working with students to help them fight drugs. Brian Sibanda, AYZ’s public relations officer, said the advocacy group’s drug prevention and awareness programme provides practical tools to educate young people and youths about drug and substance abuse.
“No one questions the severity of the drug problem and its effects on young people. Academic results suffer and even worse drugs undermine health and destroy young lives. The solution is to reach out to them with effective, fact-based drug education before they start on drugs. This is why we are using different tactics to nip the practice in the bud,” he said.
— Own Correspondent