School pregnancy shock

A MPUMALANGA high school is in the news for the wrong reasons - 70 of pupils at the school are pregnant.

Teachers at Malatse High School in Marapyane are concerned that the situation will impact negatively on the year-end exams.

The school has a total of 290 girls and 70 of them are expectant. The overall school enrollment is 562.

"Of 109 girls in Grade 10, 20 are pregnant and of 101 girls in Grade 11, 40 are mothers-to-be, while out of 80 in Grade 12, 10 are also pregnant," said a teacher.

The teacher explained that in one week every month, one class or the other would be half empty because most girls would be at pay points to collect government grants for their babies.

Another teacher said until 2007, Malatse had topped all other schools on their circuit with good results, but this has changed.

"Last year we were one of the schools that performed very poorly," he said.

Principal Chalk Moepi declined to comment on the pregnancy reports.

He referred enquiries to provincial education department spokesperson Jasper Zwane, who was not available for comment.

Another teacher said though the state had come up with a number of interventions to prevent teenage pregnancy, "for the rural poor, the message being sent was not good enough".

The interventions include loveLife campaigns, school-based sex education, a peer education programme and adolescent-friendly clinics.

The spokesperson of the South African Council for Educators, Themba Ndlovu, said it was disturbing that so many pupils from one school could fall pregnant at once.

"Parents must be the first ones to teach children about the dangers of engaging in unprotected sex," he said.

Ndlovu said a legal team would be sent to the school to check on what really is happening.

Some villagers blamed the introduction of child support grants for the high number of pregnant pupils.

But a researcher said there was no positive link between child support grants and the trend of teenage child-bearing.

"An observed slight increase in teenage fertility in the late 1980s predated the introduction of the grants," Monde Makiwane of Human Sciences Research Council said.

"But from the first half of the 1990s teenage pregnancies had been declining, before and after the introduction of the grant."

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