The adage that it is easy to turn to alcohol when there is nothing to do is living testimony in the town of Mariental. The majority of the town’s population is the young, and with almost no activities to do after school or during the weekend, many have turned to liquor, as the only hope and activity to keep them on their toes.
“The only form of entertainment here is the shebeens. If children go out, they go to shebeens,” said 50-year-old Meisie Witbooi, who sees a bleak future for the young in Mariental.
The town only has one government and private high school. Learners who are not admitted into the state school are left with no option but to stay home. Equally, it also means that learners whose parents cannot afford to send them to university either in Windhoek or Keetmanshoop are forced to join the dusty streets of the town.
The town has over the years claimed the reputation of alcohol and drug abuse and subsequently petty crimes. A drive through the streets exposes the movement of young people holding alcohol bottles by the neck while others gamble for coins on the sides of the gravel. It is almost as if the houses are empty as children as young as 13 are playing on the streets as late as 21h00, if not drinking too.
“It is very worrisome when you see a mother with her children all out at a shebeen drinking. These same young boys and girls are expected to go to school the following day but one wonders if they will be productive at all,” says young Elina Nambahu.
She adds: “There is no hope here. There is nothing to keep the young busy. It is really sad to see my peers drowning in bottles of alcohol.”
The abuse of drugs has also become a growing issue with children being towed into the space of delivering.
The elders of the town have long asked the municipality and government to build recreational facilities, as the only measure to take to youth away from the shebeens. Until then, the youth of Mariental remain hooked on alcohol.