It is 12pm in Hopley, a settlement near Harare and 17-year-old Praise Nebeta is furiously driving nails through a wooden board as he makes haste to finish a set of sofas before delivery.
At 17, Nebeta who was forced to drop out of school before writing his O level examinations due to lack of school fees is already a breadwinner, helping his uncle and siblings.
After his mother died when was just 11, Nebeta had to endure living with his stepmother.
“Life was tough, even though I was young I could tell when I was not being treated well,” Nebeta said.
He would be introduced to carpentry by his uncle at 16, and Nebeta fell in love with the trade.
“I used to come here to watch my uncle work on furniture. I then developed an interest and asked him to teach me,” he tells TheNewsReportLive.
Before long, his hobby turned into daily work.
“I failed to write my O levels last year because of lack of funds. So, I ended up asking for training” Nebeta said.
In two months, Nebeta had already learnt the basics of carpentry and volunteered to stay in the workshop.
“This is my home, I stay here. I cook here and I have made this my home,” Nebeta said.
On a good day a full set of sofas can be bought, at $320 but some days are nothing but endless toil.
Although it is a strenuous job for a 17-year-old, carpentry has kept Nebeta out of trouble.
While his contemporaries are hooked on narcotics, Nebeta sweats it out in his uncle’s workshop.
“Keeping myself busy here has helped me stay out of drugs. You always see young people in corners puffing mutoriro, it is being done in broad daylight and I am grateful for the opportunity I got here,” he said.
“Drugs are damaging lives in Hopley, but I also go to church, so it has really helped me,” Nebeta added.
His friends have also escaped the drug scourge as they often help him in the workshop.
“I do not do drugs because I know they are bad. We always spend our time here, so we are safe,” Tanaka Chavhanga, 18 said.
Chavhanga dropped out of school when he was in grade six and spends his time vending or helping a local carpenter.
“I have even forgotten that I was ever in school. I however feel my life would have been different if I had gone to school,” Chavhanga said.
Like many townships in Zimbabwe, Hopley is facing a drug menace as teens drop out of school after getting hooked on crystal meth or infamously known as mutoriro in street lingo.
Addictive on first smoke, the drug has become a crippling vice for the country’s youths, who take the illegal substance to escape from daily troubles. Also known as dombo, buwe, guka makafela in street lingo, the infamous drug has destroyed lives across the country’s townships.
Drug peddlers here, are terrorising residents, robbing innocent civilians while threatening families with death. Countless attempts to get them arrested have failed as police are reluctant to bring the perpetrators to book.
Families here believe the police are part of the drug racket, amid allegations that they also receive bribes to protect the gangs terrorizing citizens.
While Zimbabwe, like many other countries the world over fought the Covid-19 pandemic, an equally deadly but silent epidemic crept in plunging communities into a crisis.
The abuse of crystal meth and other deadly substances has become so rampant among youths across the country’s townships, driving mental illness, violence, and premature deaths, among other problems.
To fund the deadly but expensive vice, youths have been engaging in petty theft, stealing home appliances for sale.
But Nebeta has found refuge in his uncle’s workshop.
He dreams of starting his own furniture shop one day, he tells TheNewsReportLive.
“I would like to open my own shop one day, so I cannot afford to indulge in drugs. I want to be a good role model for young people here,” he said.