In a report released by the South African Department of Basic Education as a written reply from the Education Department to a Parliamentary question posed by the Democratic Alliance (DA) on Wednesday, it stated that 20 000 school girls fell pregnant last year, and even more distressing is that of those 20 000 pregnancies, 223 of those were in primary schools.
Gauteng had the highest number of pregnancies with more than 5 000 documented and the Eastern Cape second at 3 000. The Seme Secondary School in Mpumalanga noted the highest number of pregnancies, at 77 and Sophathisana Secondary in the Eastern Cape had the second highest with a figure of 74.
It was a primary school in Mpumalanga, KT Twala that had the highest number of pregnancies recording 13 pregnancies.
Teenage pregnancy has always been a tough situation to tackle, but with more than 90 000 teenage pregnancies recorded in the country every year there is a dire need for conversations to be had. While some organisations preach abstinence and other push for supplying contraception for kids should they chose to have sex, it seems both camps are failing. Children are having sex and are not being safe in its practise and has a result we have 20 000 schoolgirls who have had their futures disrupted.
A life destined to fail
The DBE was unable to say if any of the girls that had fallen pregnant had returned to school after they had given birth but that reality is chances are they didn’t. It is a sad reality that when these situations present themselves it is always the girl who has the to carry the proof of the indiscretion that gets penalised. Many establishments ban the child from returning to school citing that they are now a bad influence to her peers. The boy however, or in some instances man, who was an equal party in the act always seems to get away scot-free and possibly to err again.
What this leads to is a generation of juvenile mothers without the skills or the means to be parents and no prospects for the future. These young mothers are raising a generation of children that will grow up in less than ideal conditions and grow up to be young men and women that are at risk of falling through the cracks and perpetuating the cycle. Speaking in Parliament at a recent Q&A, President Zuma was asked to clarify his stance when he said that teenage mothers should be separated from their children, he did so by reiterating that teen mothers should be away from their babies so as to afford them a chance to complete their schooling. While this may seem a drastic measure it has merit.
Falling pregnant whilst you are at school is a bad idea but it should not be a prison sentence. For a child to be the best they can be they need to be in an environment that is conducive. A mother who is empowered raises empowered children.
The government’s mandate is to raise healthy children and so it needs to look into ways of raising healthy children at the point of their need and circumstance.
Takes two to tango
Like the annoying cliché states, it takes two to tango and so it stands to reason that two should face the consequence.
Our schools need to move away from their sexist ways and call both guilty parties into the discipline process. If it’s a young boy he should also be penalised so that he too learns the error of his ways and the level of responsibility he is in for as a result of engaging in teen sex. Once this is done they can both go back to school. If it’s a teacher or an older man they should be named and shamed then jailed for statutory rape.
We can continue with the practice of sex education and providing contraception for children at schools for that play its own part in discouraging underage sexual practices, but when this fails - as it clearly can - let us not abandon the child and their future. Let us equip them with the tools to pick up the pieces and move forward with a better understanding of life and all its highs and lows.
Only then can we say we are raising healthy children and a healthy nation, when we leave no one behind