Up to the late 1970s, it was rare to encounter a young man staggering home or lying by the roadside dead drunk. These days, it is more common to spot young people in a drunken stupor than elderly persons.
No matter where you go, the situation is the same. Something is seriously wrong with our country’s drinking culture.
The substances destroying our children are commonly available illicit liquor like chang’aa and legally marketed alcohol like beer and whisky, not hard drugs.
Young people are future parents, leaders, and professionals, and we cannot afford to let them waste away in alcoholism. Religious, social, and educational institutions need to work together to solve this chronic problem.
The ability of social institutions to instil proper ethical standards in youth continues to wane as years go by. We no longer know the right point at which to instil proper education on alcohol consumption and management.
So far, the family as an institution has lost authority over youth giving them leeway to engage in unproductive and irresponsible behaviour. Consequently, young people have become an “endangered species” since alcohol addiction is indicative of loss of a future productive life.
Without alcohol management, Kenyans will continue to experience premature deaths and related illnesses. Those who outlive this trap are no better since the introduction to alcohol at an early age often transmits that behaviour into future professional and career life.
Today, thousands of parents suffer the helplessness of having to watch their children disintegrate right before their eyes, turning into zombies prior to succumbing to death due to alcohol abuse.
A high number of alcohol abusers begin as social drinkers, only to become problem drinkers, and eventually graduating into notorious addicts. The consequences are dire: marriage breakups, domestic violence, dependency, and alcohol-induced illnesses.
The only way to avoid a “lost generation gap” is to accept without question that alcohol abuse is a societal, not an individual, problem. Thereafter, families, civil society, and the government must devise a watertight and ruthless programme on alcoholic management.
Secondly, educationists must admit that a serious omission does exist in our educational curriculum to address aspects of youth upbringing such as emotional development, proper human relationships, and character building in general., so that they can manage alcohol.
The surest way to find a lasting solution is to involve families, close relatives, and village elders in combating the vice by monitoring abusers closely at home and denying them access to alcohol.
Thirdly, local administration and police should handle this as a social problem and shed the previous punitive approach. However, the government should deal firmly with brewers of illicit liquor and licensed bar-owners found serving underage children or ignoring gazetted opening hours.
Mr Osoro works with the Centre for Policy Analysis ([email protected]).