Jeanette Dadzie IPAO Correspondent
On July 20, 2018, Africa University along with other businesses and organizations working for the development, transformation and empowerment of communities within the region of Manicaland were honoured for their contributions and efforts in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
These CSR awards were the first of their kind in Manicaland with the traditional CSR awards in Zimbabwe being held at a national level previously. Similar awards are set to be held in other regions of the country throughout the year.
CSR Network Zimbabwe Executive Director Willard Razawo in his address to the corporations and organizations being honoured said: “These appreciation awards are to thank those organizations and companies who do amazing things in their communities regularly and understand that their success is inextricably tied to the success of the community as that is where it draws its labour and its support. It is no longer Corporate Social Responsibility, but Corporate Social Investment.”
The guest of Honor, Minister of State for the Province of Manicaland Honorable Monica Mutsvangwa was represented by the Director in her office Mr Mugaisanwa who thanked the award recipients on behalf of the Government for taking up the call to develop their communities whole-heartedly and with such dedication and passion. Africa University walked away with an appreciation award for Excellence in Community Health and Youth Empowerment after gaining widespread recognition for its move to reduce substance abuse among young adults in Manicaland through education as well as the removal of stigma towards mental health issues in the community by offering free training workshops on Mental Health First Aid that teaches participants to become trainers in their communities, to demystify common misconceptions and myths surrounding mental illness and most importantly how to identify those most at risk and get them the assistance that they need. These efforts are spearheaded by the university’s Acting Dean of Students’ Affairs, Dr MazvitaMachinga who works with the youth of Manicaland on a regular basis and identified these (substance abuse and neglected/untreated mental health issues) as key factors that have the potential to destabilize and derail the promising futures of those who are living in at risk populations or groups namely the unemployed, those suffering physical and mental abuse, university students exposed to high levels of peer pressure and those youth who are homeless or living in abject poverty.
Substance abuse refers to the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs. One of the key impacts of illicit drug use on society is the negative health consequences experienced by its members. Drug use also puts a heavy financial burden on individuals, families and society. Cannabis remains the most widely used illicit substance in the African Region. The highest prevalence and increase in use is being reported in West and Central Africa with rates between 5.2% and 13.5%. Injecting drugs carry a significantly high risk of infection with blood borne viruses such as HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, and the sharing of contaminated needles and syringes which are important modes of transmission for those viruses adding yet another layer of danger. (WHO)
Substance abuse and mental illness can become interlinked leading to incredibly complex and extremely difficult cases to treat. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (2017), prolonged and chronic improper use of drugs and substance abuse can lead to long term changes in the brain that can result in mental health problems including paranoia, depression, aggression, anxiety and other related issues. Many people who are addicted to drugs are also diagnosed with mental health problems and vice versa.
Peer pressure plays a major part in getting school –going and university students “hooked” on drugs with studies showing that people who start with gateway substances like alcohol before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become alcoholics. School-going children who use alcohol or drugs are three times more likely to get involved in violent crimes. (The New Times- January 2018) The necessity to have drug and substance abuse policies is rising and providing interventions through counselling and awareness to the dangers that substance abuse poses is definitely a step in the right direction in fighting this growing problem.
Drug addiction exacts a heavy toll usually paid by the community who witness increased crime rates, violence and an overall deterioration of the social fabric and cohesion of the community with lasting consequences of mistrust, underdevelopment and poverty. Africa University’s work in this area is intended to safeguard the future of the youth of Manicaland and empower them to make the right choices backed by a support system formed by their communities who understand what they are going through and are equipped to help.