By Betty Amamukirori
YOUTHS from various secondary schools in Kampala have petitioned the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development and the Ministry of Education, to regulate and curb underage alcoholism which is becoming rampant.
While presenting the petition on behalf of the youths, Trevor Amanya a senior five student of Uphill College Mbuya, asked the ministries to strengthen policies on alcohol consumption because it is a nationwide problem that is rampantly claiming the lives of many youths.
“Alcohol has stopped being an issue of the elders only, the youths are day by day becoming its number one consumers and have abandoned their studies. We need rules against alcohol strengthened and police units set up to combat alcoholism,” he said.
He pointed out that it has become common place to see students carrying sachet of liquor in their school bags and taking the spirits freely within the school premises while in the full glare of everyone.
Amanya expressed anger with the way the schools heads have become so unbothered with alcoholic behaviors of these students.
“Most schools nowadays lack rules against alcoholism. It is no longer a surprise to see a teacher coming to class reeking of alcohol.”
He also expressed disappointment with the school administrators who accept and receive bribes from students to be allowed to ferry alcohol into the school premises.
Amanya asked the various concerned stakeholders to intervene and set stringent measures against underage consumption, alcohol suppliers and teachers conduct.
“Alcohol has led many youths to engage in risky behaviors that have resulted into deaths, STDs and unwanted pregnancies. We need this to stop.” He ended his petition.
This was during the youth convention organized by Straight Talk Foundation (STF) to forge a way forward on curbing juvenile alcohol consumption, at Nsambya Sharing Hall. The convention was attended by over 20 primary and secondary schools around Kampala.
Susan Ajok the STF Executive Director said that through the Red Card campaign, they have partnered with Uganda Breweries Limited, to help curb the rapidly increasing number of underage alcoholics.
“We have realized that the number of alcohol suppliers is increasing and so is the number of underage alcohol consumers. We have also noted that there is a close relationship between risky behaviors and alcohol consumption,” she noted.
Ajok added that in order to curb the vice, they had to involve the alcohol producers and suppliers to ensure that they become part in curtailing the damages liquor is causing in the lives of these adolescents.
Commenting about the convention, she said young people also have a fundamental responsibility of making decisions not to take alcohol regardless of the circumstances. she urged teachers and parents to create alcohol free environments in support of the decisions made by the youths.
The assistant commissioner for the children and youths at the Ministry of Gender, Mondo Kyateka said that stopping underage alcoholism requires joint efforts of parents, teachers, government and other concerned stakeholders.
He said that though the government has failed to play its part in implementing stringent laws against alcoholism, the parents have also failed to play their roles in stopping the vice.
“We have reckless parents who do not care about their children’s behaviors. They are never around to watch their children’s manners or else if they are around then they are ever drunk. So now who will educate these young people,” he remarked.
However, he asked the youths to take charge of their lives because they are the determinants of their own destiny.
The convention was crowned with very many activities ranging from Red Card interschool debates, poems, drama and music portraying the bad side of juvenile alcoholism.
In the 2004 global status report on alcohol, released by the World Health Organization, Uganda ranked as the world’s leading consumer of alcohol. Uganda’s overall alcohol consumption was measured at an average of 17.6 litres per person.