No guidelines for teen pregnancy

Pumza Fihlani and Sipho Masombuka

Pumza Fihlani and Sipho Masombuka

As the debate on how to curb teenage pregnancy rages, schools are left to their own devices on how to deal with the ever-increasing number of pregnant pupils in schools.

After a nationwide debate between the Education Department, teachers' unions and school governing bodies on how to handle the situation, there are still no guidelines.

Sowetan discovered that in the first term of the school year six pupils - five from Grade 12 and one Grade 11 - from Vlakfontein Technical School were pregnant.

The South African Democratic Teachers' Union's (Sadtu) stance on the matter is that "every pupil has the right to education but to expect teachers to cope with the situation is impractical".

Sadtu secretary-general Thulas Nxesi said yesterday: "Any pregnant child is a source of concern because of the social implications. Pupils should be excused from school from a certain stage of their pregnancy and then return after having given birth," he said.

Nxesi said that the department had "promised last year" to set guidelines on how to tackle problems, but to date schools were using their own discretion.

Gauteng Education Department spokesman Panyaza Lesufi said expecting the department to solve the problem of teenage pregnancies was "barking up the wrong tree".

"It is not just the education department's problem but a societal problem. It should be a joint effort by everyone."

Lesufi said the department had been involved in campaigns to raise awareness about teenage pregnancy, the dangers of unprotected sex, and HIV and Aids.

According to the South African History Organisation: "Many girls in South Africa give birth during their teenage years."

Figures released by Statistics SA show that 547000 girls countrywide, aged between 13 and 19, abandoned their studies between 2005 and last year. Of this number 72000 left school because of falling pregnant.