'Their lives are gone'

HEAVY HOMEWORK: A teenage mother-to-be at Mqikela High in Lusikisiki. The Eastern Cape school is reported to have the highest pregnancy rate in South Africa. PHOTO: ESA ALEXANDER. 17/05/2007. © ST.
A teenage mother to be (seven months pregnant), from Mqikela High school (in Lusikisiki): a school reported to have the highet pregnancy rate in the country.17/05/2007 PICTURE: ESA ALEXANDER
HEAVY HOMEWORK: A teenage mother-to-be at Mqikela High in Lusikisiki. The Eastern Cape school is reported to have the highest pregnancy rate in South Africa. PHOTO: ESA ALEXANDER. 17/05/2007. © ST. A teenage mother to be (seven months pregnant), from Mqikela High school (in Lusikisiki): a school reported to have the highet pregnancy rate in the country.17/05/2007 PICTURE: ESA ALEXANDER

JUST days after teenage pregnancy experts told parliament that teenage mothers should be kept at school, a Cape Town principal stands accused of suspending pregnant school girls - and not allowing them back after they give birth.

JUST days after teenage pregnancy experts told parliament that teenage mothers should be kept at school, a Cape Town principal stands accused of suspending pregnant school girls - and not allowing them back after they give birth.

Two teachers and a pupil at Delft's Rosendal High School told Sowetan, on condition of anonymity, that principal Dennis Maluka had suspended between "seven and 20" pregnant pupils from school - some before their pregnancies were even visible.

The news came to light after teenage pregnancy expert Saadhna Panday told Parliament that "for every year that teen mothers are out of school their chances of returning decreases".

The study was carried out by the Department of Basic Education, UNICEF and the Human Sciences Research Council.

Panday said teenage mothers who "quickly returned" to school were also far less likely to have a second baby, and recommended that the government start a project to get teenage mothers back to school.

But at Rosendal High School, teachers say Maluka "puts the girls out before they are even showing.

"He says pregnant girls can't be running around the school because they might get hurt".

Maluka has allegedly "kicked out" three pregnant matric pupils this year. One teacher said that after the girls were denied the right to return to school "they are under pressure to get jobs. You have 16-year-old mothers now working for R200 a week as casual cashiers or as factory staff".

"It is criminal not to allow them to finish their education. Their lives are gone."

A 17-year-old pupil who contacted Sowetan said she was one of the lucky ones.

She managed to remain in school until her pregnancy became visible at seven months, and came back to school when her baby was six months old.

"My uncle had lots of meetings with him but he still said no. Every time he refused to take me back. He only agreed after we went to the education department."

Maluka denied all the allegations. He said he "advises" parents to remove girls from school once they are six months pregnant but that he re-admits the girls after they have given birth.

Basic Education Department spokesperson Granville Whittle said: "Pregnant pupils would have to take medical advice on when to take maternity leave but principals aren't allowed to say they shouldn't be in school."

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