South Africa

Soft skills key to substance abuse fight

On Friday the City’s Social Development and Early Childhood Development Directorate rolled out a Soft Skills personal development enhancement programme to 70 schools by June 2015 to build up children’s resistance to substance abuse and other anti-social influences.

The Directorate is focusing on young children as part of its interventions against substance abuse. The programme is the latest in a series of projects targeting different groups as part of the directorate’s broader substance abuse prevention programme, like the Strengthening Families Project and the ‘Be Smart, Don’t Start’ dance-a-thons for youth.

According to research, the best preventative measure for substance abuse is to enhance the personal protective factors within learners. The Soft Skills programme aims to do just that by enlisting the services of a team of graduate social stream professionals like social workers, psychologists and occupational therapists to help learners develop their communication skills, build their self-esteem, understand how to resist peer pressure, learn appropriate social behaviour focusing on respect, and to lead healthy lives.

‘Substance abuse often goes hand in hand with peer pressure and low self-esteem, so we are trying to build up the self-worth and self-belief of these young people to ensure that they are less susceptible to the influences that could see them fall into the substance abuse trap.

The other important aspect of the programme is to make learners understand the effects of substance abuse. These are concepts which would ideally be taught in the home, but it is an unfortunate reality that many children are being denied these basic teachings because their environment is one where substance abuse is entrenched in their daily lives and considered the norm,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Social Development and Early Childhood Development, Councillor Suzette Little

The directorate first introduced the Soft Skills programme at nine schools in the 2012/13 financial year and expanded to 22 schools the following year. The current reach has been broadened to 70 schools in various areas across the metropole, including Nyanga, Manenberg, Hanover Park, Grassy Park, Lavender Hill, Kraaifontein and Nomzamo in Strand.

The programme is aimed at learners in grades 3 and 4 as they are more receptive to development programmes and internalise the learnings far more quickly. Up to 30 learners are accommodated per school for a total of nine sessions that are held after school so as not to interfere with contact/learning time.

‘We are living in a society where young children are scarily familiar with substance abuse because they see it happening around them all the time. Just recently there was an uproar over photographs on Facebook allegedly showing a three-year-old smoking dagga. Social workers and rehabilitation facilities will attest to the fact that children in the age groups we are catering for with this programme are already addicted to drugs. We’ve long passed the era where we could wait until our children were teenagers before we had the serious discussions with them about things like sex and drugs.


‘I appeal to parents to pay more attention to their children’s personal development as well as the environment they are growing up in. We are reaching just more than 2 000 children in this financial year through the Soft Skills programme, but the reality is that there are many more who need these crucial interventions and we as government cannot do it alone. I applaud the principals and teachers who have come on board with this initiative and allowed us to engage with their learners,’ added Councillor Little.