By: JAMLECK KAMAU
When Kabete Member of Parliament Ferdinand Waititu led a group of youths in physically destroying second generation liquor outlets in his constituency, many people were shocked by what appeared to be a wanton act of lawlessness.
But Waititu’s action demonstrated the extent of the frustration caused by the problems of reckless alcohol sale and consumption.
Indeed, when President Uhuru Kenyatta threw his weight behind the war on the sale and consumption of such brands of alcohol — widely referred to as second generation liquor — most Kenyans supported him for providing the necessary authority to address this problem that threatens the future of our society.
Clearly, no one with good intentions fails to see that the manufacture, sale and consumption of second generation alcohol, while posting good returns to manufacturers and employees involved in the chain, is in the long run counter-productive to Kenya’s best interests.
This is why we all need to join hands in ensuring that the menace of reckless alcoholism is eradicated.
THE REAL QUESTION
While clearing the landscape of these second generation spots, we need to confront the real question: Why are the youth burying their dreams and future in alcoholism?
Though there are no simple answers to this question, it is clear that there is a link between alcoholism and the frustrations that come with joblessness, poverty and lack of meaningful education.
This means that any long term strategy meant to eradicate alcoholism should ensure that the youth, who are most vulnerable consumers of these destructive drinks, are given opportunities to examine the worth of the liquor, while equipping them with real options in life.
Following this line, a three-pronged strategy that isolates and targets these major causes should be adopted.
Certainly the Jubilee Government has begun addressing the first concern — joblessness — through its expanded National Youth Service programmes that are already yielding fruit of better roads and other physical infrastructure where NYS teams have been posted.
We need to find ways of expanding the NYS programmes to ensure that, alongside devolution, the quick gains of these young Kenyans’ labour are experienced across the country.
The NYS initiative should not, however, be considered as the silver bullet.
We need to provide opportunities for youth who do not acquire university education, for whatever reason, to benefit from post-secondary education that will make them open-minded and employable.
As it is, our national educational practices seem to be geared towards the dangerous path of university education or nothing for many, which is causing a lot of frustration and despair among many of our youth, some of whom take the easy but destructive path of alcoholism.
If the youth are kept away from alcohol while being equipped with higher education or vocational training, they will have a fair chance at fighting poverty and be on the path to realising their dreams.
The Jubilee administration is on the right track, having come up with policies which enable the youth to get involved in government tenders.
Measures are also being put in place to ensure the youth are helped not just to see opportunities for self-advancement, but also facilitated to ensure that the opportunities are followed up and translated into real gains.
As a society, we need to ensure that special interest groups within the youth are recognised and given tailored initiatives.
This way, we will soon see the benefits of a sober, youthful population.
With this and other steps in place, even those among them who are inclined towards alcohol consumption are likely to reach for the better quality brands that pose less risks to them in terms of body degeneration.