Teen moms get raw deal

Mary Papayya

Teenage pregnancies are causing girl pupils to drop out of schools at an alarming rate.

The KwaZulu-Natal health department has recorded more than 5000 cases of teenage pregnancies in its 12 education districts since the start of the school year.

It will host a teenage pregnancy summit today in a bid to alleviate the growing problem. It will also develop a pupil pregnancy policy to help girl pupils, parents and teachers.

Education spokesman Christi Naude said: "We have identified teenage pregnancy as a factor in the drop-out rate of girl pupils. It hinders girls' education and it is a barrier to school attendance.

"The school functionality visits in January and in July found that teenage pregnancy was one of the reasons listed for pupil absenteeism at some schools. This contributes to poor results at the end of each academic year," she said.

Naude said cultural pressures, poverty and peer pressure were among the key factors that contributed to young girls falling pregnant.

"We found that girl pupils are sometimes forced to live with the boyfriend's family and this results in early pregnancy.

"Others fall pregnant because they want to access maintenance grants."

She said boyfriends' refusals to have protected sex resulted in early pregnancy. The results of the survey will be made public at the summit.

"Influences such as culture, religion, and poverty on teenage pregnancy, as well as how schools should deal with it, will be discussed at the summit."

The summit will be attended by religious leaders, amakhosi, izinduna, local councillors, NGOs and education officials.

The department will use their input to finalise its pupil pregnancy policy.