Education is the key

Cecil-John (CJ) Fabricks, general manager of Sultan Bahu Centre, UWC social work student Cisrelda Williams, Shuaib Hoosain, centre manager, and Raeesah Arendse,UWC social work student.

A Woodlands man is proof that improving the academic level of a recovering drug addict, improves his chances of staying clean.

The 30-year-old man said he was stupid to have wasted half of his life on drugs, but today is a part-time University of Cape Town (UCT) student.

He is due to finish a two-year Higher Certificate in Adult Education next year.

The youngest of three sons, he asked that his name not be published, and did not want to reveal how long he had been drug-free after having been an inpatient at Toevlug Alcohol and Drug Dependence Centre, in Worcester, twice before and relapsing. “I’m still fighting the battle. I don’t want to become complacent and think I am strong to fight addiction,” he said.

The Plainsman was introduced to this student after two third-year University of the Western Cape (UWC) social work students, Cisrelda Williams and Ra’eesah Arendse, hosted a “Creating vocational opportunities” session at Sultan Bahu Centre, in Westridge, on Thursday October 12.

The man has been frequenting the centre despite having completed a 12-week outpatient Opiate Substitution Treatment (OST) programme about 18 months ago.

The OST programme includes a combination of the use of prescribed medication (suboxone) and psychosocial therapy.

The man said he started off experimenting with club drugs, which he could afford with pocket money and by selling some of his extra clothing.

He first went to Toevlug in Grade 7 and relapsed shortly after his return home.

He completed Grade 9 but failed the next grade, when he relapsed again, sleeping in people’s backyards and cleaning to support his habit.

It got so bad that he started stealing from the people he was working for and ended up living on the street.

For about a decade, he smoked heroine and used tik, which felt like a point of no return for him.

He celebrated his 20 birthday at Toevlug during his second attempt at being sober.

However, once home he fell prey to drugs again.

Two years ago, his mother, at her wit’s end, took him to Sultan Bahu everyday, and he was able to go home every evening and weekends to practice the skills learned to stay clean.

“I needed to keep myself busy because when I was on drugs I was always looking for my next fix,” he said.

He failed the first entry assessment test to study last year but was successful with his second attempt. Following the help of Sultan Bahu, he passed and started his tuition at UCT in March this year.

“So, I reached out to the centre and asked them for help,” he said.

He is one of seven Sultan Bahu clients who are completing the same qualification and he socialises with all his classmates to broaden his horizons.

“I was stupid to have wasted almost half of my life on drugs because now I am 30-years old and studying, when I could have been working,” he said.

Ms Arendse and Ms Williams, who are doing the practical component to their studies at the centre, hosted an information session where they invited education institutions and employers to speak to the clients.

Having interacted with clients at the centre one-on-one and facilitated small groups, they chose to help about 60 percent of the clients who did not have matric and a smaller percentage who did not have tertiary institution qualifications.

The duo was tasked with focusing on promoting health and social cohesion.

They noticed how unemployment and the lack of education had a direct effect on the clients’ ability to gain stability after rehabilitation.

This was because most businesses or companies require potential employees to have matric or a qualification.

Ms Arendse said they learned that employment had both economic and non-economic benefits for recovering addicts.

“Aside from the income, work provides structure and an opportunity for social connections and for socialisation with non-substance users, who function as role models, valued and respected members of society,” she said.

They decided to have a vocational day for their community project.

They invited potential stakeholders who addressed clients, explaining what they had to offer and how to apply.

Ms Williams said the Statistics South Africa 2011 census reported the unemployment rate within Mitchells Plain to be at 10.4 percent.

“This percentage indicates how difficult it is to seek employment,” she said.

Shuaib Hoosain, centre manager, said clients completed a survey asking for vocational advice.

“The clients reported how difficult it is to find employment after completing the programme.

“The clients furthermore reported that they do have experience in trades, however, lack a qualification to seek employment,” he said.

Mr Hoosain said they have had social work students in the past who have hosted a variety of events, including guests who the centre could partner with to further assist clients.