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THE DILEMMA OF KHAT CHEWING AMONG THE STUDENTS OF HIGHER EDUCATION: ADDIS ABABA UNIVERSITY MAIN CAMPUS, ETHIOPIA [Abstract ID: 0301-12]
Despite the widespread awareness initiatives focussing on health and socio-economic negative impacts of Khat chewing among the young generation, the practice persists - with a possible rise - in schools and higher education. One of the fundamental research gaps is limited understanding of the pull factors and developing an alternative strategy to divert the demand currently met by Khat. Accordingly, this case study considers about 160 social science students from different departments of Addis Ababa University main campus in regards to their Khat consumption practices. The average of Khat chewers is about 29% for male and less than 2% for female; similarly, observations of social sciences dormitories have shown about 60% of the rooms as accommodating male chewers. Moreover, about 50% of the chewers have started chewing at high school level. Taken together, this study finds universities as tentative hotspots of chewing of Khat, and highlights its strong interface with schools. Regarding the pull factors for the chewing of Khat it is underlined that the university teaching and learning methods such as modular subjects, term papers, handouts and exam types are triggering students to chew Khat to remain alert working for longer hours. Group chewing is also serving as a means of networking, socialization and relaxation. Surprisingly, most of the chewers record achieving better academic performance. The study highlights and emphasizes both the causes of the demands for Khat as well as urging for changes in approaches to teaching and learning, creating an enabling environment for socialization and relaxation in both the school and universities rather than a simple condemnation of Khat.