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Addiction and the chaos in the matatu sector.

12 May

When the matatu welfare association forwarded my name to NACADA for a TOT training on Alcohol and Drugs Abuse {ADA}. I felt like i was the wrong person for this training. I could not see any connection between Road safety and workers welfare which is my specification at the association and the National Campaign Against Drug Abuse{ NACADA }. If at all, I was partaking on one of the substance Nacada was campaigning against. More so, i did not think that going back to class was the best option considering the timing of the training and another meeting at KIPPRA where I represent hundreds of matatu drivers under the KENYA CIVIL SOCIETY NETWORK FOR NMT AND ROAD SAFETY. I had all the reasons to seek for an excuse not to attend the training but, I didn’t.

Come the day we were to report at the college for registration and i packed my learning gear and headed to Karen. I’m really glad i did; By the end of the week, i was so sure i know the reason we have all these chaos and mismanagement in the matatu sector. It had never occurred to me that Alcohol and Drugs could be responsible for most of the miseries workers in the public transport service sector had gone through and continue to suffer from. I listened keenly as facilitators skillfully opened our minds to the reality that addiction is causing havoc in the life’s of Kenyans,- affecting every area of our livelihood and our personal health.

I had always thought that chewing MIRAA, smoking weed and a few tots of whiskey was a cool thing and also a boost to our performance since our jobs require a lot of focus, determination and recklessness that can only be described as bordering insanity. This three substances have been the source of that courage for many a matatu driver to a curtain point that- they have become accepted as part of our lifestyle. But as i sat in that lecture room listening to expert talk about alcohol and drugs and their effects on the users, I could connect every explanation with somebody i know or have worked with in the matatu industry.

When the lecturer talked about Alcohol, i could see many alcoholics by name, the life they are leading, the consequences of their choices and the direction addiction had taken their life’s. when they talked about inhalants, i was finally able to connect the -teenage deaths- of many street children who come to collect plastic bottles from our buses with the glue they sniff. I had notice a certain pattern where many of the street kids die young or develop permanent mental illness. The issue of MIRAA chewing really surprised me and I’m still very deeply concerned about the effects of this substance that is legally available across the country with no restriction in producing, processing and sale.

Miraa {twigs} and muguka {the leaves} cause more damage to the user that marijuana  and  cigarettes combined. Like the bible writer had posed it; WHAT IS THE PROFT OF GAINING THE WHOLE WORLD AND LOSING YOU SOUL IN THE PROCESS? the same is true for those abusing these products of the evergreen CATHAEDUIIS tree. Many who innocently chew on the substance  to stay alert and work more hours behind the wheels are at the same time working their way to self destruction and endangering the survival of their species.Miraa is said to have grave and irreversible effect on the reproductive system causing impotence. This alone is reason enough to break hundreds of homes as is evident in majority of users. other effects included patched up sleep that catches up with the driver while on the road resulting to serious accidents.

Matatu industry has the highest number of drug abuser in all public services sectors in our country. In my 14yrs behind the wheels i have experienced and experimented on most of this substances.many of us chew miraa to work long shifts and like i said, our job description require focus determination and confidence. Marijuana is the drug of choice for many as it gives the user a sense of well being, bravely, confidence and allow us to exhibit recklessness that is next to madness. The false confidence and false bravely mixed with other long term effect of the drug like, sudden panic, poor judgment, and paranoia [ unreasonable fear} can be associated with hundreds of accidents that goes unreported where matatu owners agree to compensate the affected party to avoid involving the police as their driver is intoxicated and also the one to blame for the accident.

Since receiving the training, i have been engaging my comrades into discussions on the effects of alcohol and drugs and to my surprise, many are those who are suffering in silence. it is extremely painful to watch a loved one or somebody you know very well destroy his/her life; but this is the position many of us are forced to take when a chemically dependent loved one or a friend denies having a problem with substances. If any, majority of us condemn the affected instead of understanding that addiction is a disease; we blame them for having a problem with morals.

Any government institution ,NGO or civil society willing to bring sanity and order on our roads especially the matatu sector must look at the issue of drug abuse as a contributing factor in the mismanagement of the trade and be willing to help and give hope to the affected. a calculated approach aimed at healing and reconciliation will go a long way in ending the chaos and confusion in the matatu sector and in the long run reduce accidents by a very big margin. Tackling the drugs and substances abuse in the matatu sector is not an easy task but that is not to say it is impossible. The reason being that majority of those using the substances are already hooked or addicted and have a long history of dependency on the drug unlike students or the youth in learning institutions. The national Government must look at the big picture and find a long term solution to this menace.

Another area that will require a closer look and more serious approach is the area of counseling for drivers who have been through tragic accidents. There are many who are suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and many take to drugs and or alcohol to seek reprieve. Once hooked to drugs dependency , it becomes very hard to come out. Recovery from addiction is a long road that requires almost the same treatment as chronic diseases; this is an expensive journey that most matatu workers will never travel. Recovery from addiction can only be achieved through a combination of self-management, mutual support and professional help. To accomplish this task we must stop looking at it as a problem affecting matatu workers and start looking at it as a problem affecting the society.

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2 responses to “Addiction and the chaos in the matatu sector.

  1. SirDennis

    December 15, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    The training was a real eye opener, we are equipped to change lives.

     
    • wambururu

      December 16, 2013 at 3:33 pm

      we can cover more distance if we can somehow find a way to exchange ideas and share experiences. and more books- the one we got is working perfectly with most of my comrades.

       

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