Maternity break for pupils is a hot topic

Mthetho Ndoni

Mthetho Ndoni

A proposal tabled at a teenage pregnancy summit that pregnant pupils be given maternity leave is becoming a burning issue among education stakeholders.

At the Pietermaritzburg Teenage Pregnancy Summit the national Education Department proposed four months of maternity leave for pregnant schoolgirls.

Gert Witbooi, spokesman for Western Cape education MEC Cameron Dugmore, said there were no set rules about leave for pregnant pupils, but they would not get four months maternity leave at Western Cape schools.

Teachers, he said, usually helped girls who had taken leave to catch up with their work when they returned to school.

Loyiso Pulumani, spokesman for the the Eastern Cape Education Department, said Eastern Cape schools had various codes of conduct concerning pregnant pupils.

Pulumani said the department should maintain the status quo and a pregnant pupil should continue attending classes as long as her pregnant status did not affect other pupils.

When a pregnant pupil did leave school, he said, it should be for a delivery period only.

He said the proposal needed to be debated among national stakeholders.

Mxolisi Dimaza, secretary of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) in the Eastern Cape, said pupils had a right to education and a pupil could not be expelled because she was pregnant.

Dimaza said if the government proposed that a pregnant pupil should spend her nine months of pregnancy - as with pregnant teachers - at school and spend four months at home after delivery, then the government should provide extra teachers and resources to provide lessons for the pupil while she is on leave.

He said a clear guideline should be circulated to all education stakeholders, stating exactly what should be done about pregnant pupils.

Both Dimaza and Pulumani suggested that the minister of education call a summit to debate the issue. The summit should also pass resolutions and provide guidelines for schools.

ANC Youth League spokesman Zizi Kodwa said the ANCYL did not want to comment about the proposal until it met Sadtu and Cosas representatives tomorrow.