In a nutshell
The Soul Buddyz Alcohol Free Initiative is led by the Soul City Institute, through their children’s clubs located in schools across the country. The Soul Buddyz work together to educate themselves, their schools, and communities about the harmful effects of alcohol.
What we do
Soul City Institute is an non-governmental organisations established in 1992 with the vision of promoting health and well-being of South Africans through use of mass media, advocacy, and social mobilization. Established in 2003, Soul Buddyz was started after young children watching the popular television series Soul Buddyz on SABC TV wanted to join the club they saw on the show. There are now over 5500 school based Soul Buddyz clubs with about 25 children between 8 and 14 years old in each club.
The Soul City-led PhuzaWize campaign is a multi-faceted initiative comprising mass media (with the Soul City and Soul Buddyz television series focusing on alcohol-related messages), community radio, social mobilisation, an advocacy campaign, and the Soul Buddyz Club Alcohol Free Schools initiative. The goal of the schools initiative is to shift the norm away from accepting drunkenness as either a normal occurrence, or “cool.”
The campaign sought to affect the following attitudes and behaviours:
- Attitudes: The campaign sought to discourage schoolchildren from thinking thatone needs alcohol to have a good time, and to encourage the attitude that drunken people are not attractive. For those of legal drinking age, the campaign also sought to develop the attitude that one can drink safely.
- Self-Efficacy: the campaign worked to help young people understand that there are many different ways to cope with problems and to relax that do not include getting drunk.
- Risk Perception: the campaign also focused on raising awareness of both young people and the community of risks relating to alcohol in relation to HIV infection, violence perpetration, and being a victim of violence.
How we do it
Each of the Soul Buddyz Clubs shares a common vision: to work with children and adults to create a platform that gives voice to, and promotes real action for, children’s health and wellbeing. This means creating an environment for ongoing learning, encouraging children to have fun and to be creative, and mobilising children to take responsible action. Each club holds regular club meetings, have discussions and debates, and conduct activities in their community. As part of the Alcohol Free Campaign, the clubs focused their attention on alcohol-related messages and activities.
Soul City provided each Soul Buddyz Club about developing an Alcohol Free School. This included the Soul Buddyz Club Alcohol Abuse Guide with information and suggested activities.
Each Club then devised their own project in how to create an alcohol free school. The club's projects included a combination of the following:
- Met with local SAPS
- Met with their local Community Policing Forum
- Held marches
- Reviewed school policies
- Visited local taverns to discuss not selling to children
- Wrote and performed dramas about harm of alcohol
- Told personal experiences with alcohol through writing or discussion
- Held education sessions at the school for other children about alcohol
The Example of Lulama Primary
Located in the Pimville area of Soweto, Lulama Primary school is an example of an active Soul Buddyz Club. Guided by the materials supplied by Soul City, the Lulama Primary Soul Buddyz clubs hosted education sessions at the school for other children about alcohol - often using entertaining and creative drama and poetry. They wrote about and drew pictures of their own personal experiences. They also visited local taverns to encourage owners not to sell alcohol to children.
What we have achieved
- Learners gained knowledge: Learners participating in the Soul Buddyz clubs, as well as their families and peers in schools, learned more about how alcohol affects themselves, their families, and their communities. They learned about the health impacts, as well as how alcohol contributes to higher prevalence of HIV/AIDS and violence.
- Learners gained skills: Along with knowledge, the Buddyz learned how to affect change, for example what policies exist and how they can work to influence them.
- Reduced drinking: Young people involved in the alcohol free schools campaign reported that they no longer thought it was “cool” to drink alcohol and had stopped drinking.
- Responsible behaviours: It was also reported by teachers and learners that the initiative also helped young learners to be more responsible. Incidences of absenteeism and bullying reduced.
- Empowerment: Young people engaged with their communities for change. For example, in one school drew up an alcohol-free zone policy, and had then invited the shebeen owners around their school and area to the presentation. It had such an impact on the owners that the group marched from the school to Maponya mall where the policy was then presented to the other shebeen owners in Soweto.
- Real life imitates TV: Soul City’s social mobilisation model uses both face-to-face and mass media interventions to stimulate local action. The Alcohol Free Schools project clearly illustrates this. In the Soul Buddyz Television series in January 2011 the Soul Buddyz marched to demand an alcohol free school. Soul Buddyz Clubs replicated this march in their own schools.
- Increased Parental Awareness: As learners were exposed the alcohol free messages and activities, and conducted outreach into the community, they also passed these messages along to their parents. As a result, parents became more aware of the harmful impact of drinking in front of their children,and the health and safety risks from alcohol consumption.
- Influencing policies: While the Buddyzsought to influence policy and practice at the local level, Soul City is working to influence policy at the national level. While this is a challenge. Work is still ongoing.
What we have learned
Scope of the problem: One of the biggest challenges is that the alcohol industry itself is so large and influential. The industry has a very big influence on policy and policy makers, so it is very difficult to influence these.