Parents must take charge

Only three months into the new year, Vlakfontein Technical School in Mamelodi, Pretoria, already has at least six pregnant pupils in grades 11 and 12.

The expectant teen mothers, like so many others, will probably drop out of school and be forced to carry a burden they can hardly manage.

In a country that is being ravaged by HIV-Aids, perhaps it is time to rethink our strategies and messages to the youth about combating the pandemic.

Surely, the ABC approach, with emphasis on abstinence, being faithful to one partner and the use of condoms, is not providing the desired results.

The schoolgirl pregnancies tell a chilling story, especially considering that the Human Sciences Research Council says that in 2005 the prevalence of women with HIV in the 15 to 24 age group was eight times higher than that in males and accounts for 87 percent of HIV infections in this age group.

The South African Democratic Teachers' Union correctly says any pregnant child is cause for concern.

Indeed, it would be impractical to expect teachers alone to bear the brunt of educating our children about safe sex and the need to delay their first sexual encounter.

It is time parents took personal interest in talking to their children about the once-taboo subject of sex, instead of outsourcing their responsibility to teachers and negative role models.

Only then could government's ambitious plan to reduce the rate of HIV infections by 50 percent in the next five years succeed.