What can be done about alcoholism in Zambia?
My last Blog post focused on the problem of alcohol abuse in Zambia: Zambia’s problem with alcohol abuse.
In the post I concentrated primarily on the problems facing the country but did little by way of offering solutions. In my follow up articles I will consider some of the positive steps that Zambia might consider in reducing the drinking epidemic.
First and foremost it is essential that young people are educated about the dangers of alcohol. Education is arguably more important in Zambia than in any other country in the world given the fact that approximately half of all living Zambians are under the age of eighteen. Unfortunately many young Zambians are not exposed to good role models as many of their parents and relatives may be heavy drinkers. In most societies, where women drinking to the excess that Zambian women do is taboo, a mother is usually a model of sobriety for her children. Given that 42% of Zambian women are likely to drink to excess at least once a week, according to the WHO, it is likely that many young Zambians lack the guidance of even one sober parent. Bear in mind also that the statistics from the World Health Organization do not highlight the frequency with which Zambian women drink each week. Casual observation would suggest that for many of these women drinking is part of their daily routine and that drunkenness is the norm. Not a great environment for the education of the young given that the first educators of any child is the parents and actions most certainly speak louder than words.
Aside from the family the next group of people to have a real influence on youths and children is their teachers. Given that most young people are first tempted by alcohol in their teens it is important that their teachers in Secondary school are excellent role models. This is imperative especially in the circumstance where heavy drinking is the norm in the home. Most teachers in Zambia are professional and are serious in their duties. It is only a minority who fail to report for work or are drunk whilst on duty. However, even if a teacher is an excellent role model in school their responsibility does not end there. A teacher has a duty to uphold good moral standards at all times when their students may be of witness. Thus it can never be appropriate for a teacher to drink heavily in front of his/her students. Should a teacher wish to drink of an evening or a weekend — which is their right — they should be cautious of their audience. Drinking in the same bars as their students is most certainly inappropriate but one might argue that being seen intoxicated by the young people they educate and guide is also morally wrong. There are of course grey areas in this aspect of the debate but in the majority of cases a teacher should be a beacon of moral virtue for his/her students.
It is not helpful to demonize alcohol or those people that enjoy a few drinks. Drinking in moderation is socially acceptable in most parts of the world. My personal experience of life in Zambia is that I made many great friends over a few Mosi’s or Castle’s after finishing work. It is important that the consumption of alcohol does not become one’s raison d’etre and that the individual is always in control of their relationship with alcohol. Once alcohol gains the upper hand it becomes a dagerous drug that destroys productivity, families and communities. In this respect it is important that Churches speak out and offer guidance but this should not be to condemn alcohol or those who drink. After all Scripture only criticizes drunkenness and not the consumption of alcohol per se. Churches condemning all those who enjoy are a few beers or ciders are not helping the situation in Zambia. Abstinence is not the only answer! Christians should remember that Jesus’ first miracle was to turn water into wine and that there was wine present at his Last Supper. Let’s not be selective when quoting scripture if that’s a justification for the condemnation of alcohol one seeks. Instead Churches must support those with alcohol problems and their families. Pastoral care and Christian love should be shown to those with alcohol dependency and never rejection. After all Jesus came to save the sinner!