Anelisa Ngcakani and Xolile Bhengu
The proposal by the Education Department that pregnant school pupils get four months' maternity leave has met with the disapproval of many church leaders.
Harry Mthethwa, minister of the Nazareth Baptist Church, said his church disapproved of teenage pregnancy and did not support the proposal for maternity leave.
"Education is a basic right and though the child might have put herself into the situation of being a mother, she is still entitled, as much as any other child, to study and must be allowed to be in class.
"We don't support any rule that would exclude and discriminate against a pupil," said Mthethwa.
"Culturally speaking, and as a church, we see it as inappropriate for young mothers to mix with other young girls who have not engaged in sexual activities, but education is a separate issue.
"The girls should be allowed to continue with their studies for as long as they can be in school and must be accepted back at the school after they have given birth."
The dean of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Bishop David Beetge, said each schoolgirl's case should be treated differently.
He said maternity leave might not be appropriate in every case.
"Each situation should be dealt with in a pastoral and caring way, not in a judgmental and structural way. If the situation calls for the child to be given maternity leave, then that should be granted.
"Maternity leave should be an option, not a rule," said Beetge.
He said the proposal was discriminatory because male pupils who became fathers were not affected.
Ndiphiwe Mcoteli, of Burning Bush Ministries, said the provision of maternity leave for schoolgirls would not instill discipline.
"Both the girl pupil and the boy pupil in the comparable situation should be suspended from school for the duration of the pregnancy.
"Only after the birth of the child should the two be allowed to return. That would promote a culture of discipline."
He said the proposed maternity leave might be misinterpreted to mean that "it was fine to fall pregnant and stay at home for four months".
Mcoteli said society must encourage "children to be children" and proposed more educational programmes that encouraged delaying sexual activity until maturity.
Part of the Education Department's proposal is that teachers be required to provide pupils on maternity leave with home-study materials.
"There is a shortage of teachers and the ones we have are already overloaded with work, so my question is: Are there teachers who will be able to do this [supervise home studies] and, if there are, who is going to pay them?" said Mcoteli.