Substance Abuse Among SA Minors Focus of Master’s Research

Master’s in Child Care and Protection graduate, Ms Precious Ngcobo’s aspiration is to get to a position where she can influence children’s rights policy and advocate for the rights of minors.

Contributing knowledge towards the prevention of substance abuse among youngsters in South Africa is an important step towards the achievement of those goals.

With this in mind, Ngcobo conducted research titled: An Examination of Substance Abuse Prevention Programmes and their Impact on Minors Prone to Substance Abuse in South Africa.

Supervised by Ms Willene Holness and Dr Annie Singh, the study revealed that there was a lack of research/evidence to inform the formulation of drug policies in South Africa hence a more evidence-based approach to substance abuse prevention was required.

‘Programmes that involve the participation of parents, the school and the young people involved are likely to produce effective results,’ said Ngcobo. ‘The key to effective prevention strategies is to reinforce the natural social bonds that exist between young people and their families. Dealing with the substance abuse problem requires that policies also adequately address other social ills such as poverty, unemployment and HIV/AIDS as the substance abuse problem does not exist in isolation,’ explained Ngcobo.

The study recommended that substance abuse policies should ensure that all substance abuse prevention programmes implemented among minors are evidence-based and in line with all relevant legislation.

As a Social Worker at the Department of Social Development’s Umlazi Service Office, Ngcobo has a soft spot for children especially since the core of her profession deals with the protection and promotion of children’s rights.

‘The most challenging aspect of my research was the limited literature available on substance abuse prevention programmes implemented among minors in South Africa,’ she said. ‘There were many times when I wanted to quit but my supervisors believed in me and reminded me of my capabilities and how I had a chance to contribute positively to somehow improve the quality of the work that I do and personally make a real difference.

‘Children are the future of this country and if we can find effective methods to prevent them from abusing substances, we would have done justice to our country as a whole,’ she added.

Words: Thandiwe Jumo
Photograph: Albert Hirasen