Drinking lessons to be learned for tertiary education

Drinking lessons to be learned for tertiary education

It’s 1.30am on a Friday. The clubs on Melville’s 7th Street have 30 minutes before statutory sound-kill and another phuza-Thursday is coming to an end. Groups of young drunk people hover around their ice buckets with still lots of unopened beers and ciders.
Drinking lessons to be learned for tertiary education

On Thursday nights, it’s “buy one, get one free” so it’s quite a bit of bang for your drinking buck. For these patrons, the night is not over soon as these drinks are not take aways.

They must be downed in the club. It is binge drinking at its consistent best.

The promise of two drinks for the price of one is good enough to save up for the week.

But for many this fun will entail more than getting drunk. For some it will mean missing lectures because of their hangover.

For another, it may lead to accepting an invitation for a lift from the guy she vaguely knows but who’s been so chivalrous and generous with the drinks the whole night.

For others it could mean getting into that crowded car with a driver who’s not far away from the inebriated state they are all in.

Or perhaps in the absence of transport, walking back to the student residence about a kilometre down the road – drunk and wasted.

Most of these young people are students from nearby universities. This scenario is commonly encountered in areas around the country.

Binge drinking is a reality of student life but it’s only a few institutions that have taken steps to reduce the harm their students may face as a result of this practice.

In a recent study conducted by the Soul City Institute for Health and Development Communication only two of the five universities and three FET colleges surveyed had comprehensive alcohol policies that included clear guidelines on alcohol consumption and promotion on campus as well as mandates to conduct alcohol awareness campaigns and promote safe drinking practices off campus.

While alcohol consumption and advertising were prohibited on all the campuses, these prohibitions do nothing to address the hazardous drinking behaviours off campus.

The harzards of binge drinking are not just confined to the sometimes, life-threatening choices young people may make when drunk.

It also has consequences that can emerge much later. So while a poor choice could land a young person in jail with a criminal record, pregnant with an unplanned baby, or injured from a drunken brawl or accident, binge drinking could also lead to poor academic performance and eventual drop- out.

This has knock- on effects on family, society and the future prospects of the young person.

There are also the health consequences both on the brain and the liver and, most dangerously, the prospect of alcohol dependency.

Tertiary institutions that are home to thousands of young people of drinking age and who in many cases are away from direct parental guidance for the first time, certainly have a responsibility to reduce the risks their students may face.

Simply prohibiting alcohol consumption and advertising on campus is hardly sufficient. It’s saying at least we’re addressing the problem, yet washing their hands of the harm arising from off- campus drinking.

While all the institutions surveyed by Soul City had general counselling services for students, none had on- campus alcohol treatment or support services.

If an alcohol problem is detected in counselling, the student is referred to an outside service.

Only one institution had a free dial-a-lift service staffed by student volunteers to mitigate the prospects of student drunk driving.

None of the institutions surveyed had tools in place to monitor alcohol venues in close proximity to campus and residences to ensure these venues are conforming to the liquor norms and standards and are in fact safe drinking spaces.

These are just some of the ideas universities and colleges can consider in order to comprehensively protect students against the harm arising from the occasional or even regular binge drinking sprees that happen off campus.

Tertiary institutions are our centres of higher learning responsible for producing the cream of this country’s expertise.

But they need to come to the party in protecting this expertise from being damaged or compromised due to hazardous alcohol consumption.

They have a responsibility to reduce any harm their students may face as well as doing everything possible to prevent these institutions from being places where people develop alcohol disorders.

In this way, the student enjoying a phuzaThursday night would not be making life choices that diminish the very reason they are on campus in the first place.

Original article.

© 2023 Soul City Institute