Eastern Cape school tells pupils to provide pregnancy, drug test results
A top-performing school in the Eastern Cape has asked its pupils to bring drug and pregnancy test results when they arrive for their first day back on January 19.
Xolilizwe Senior Secondary School in Nqadu frequently communicates with pupils and parents through its Facebook page. On Monday it posted: “If you are a student at Xolilizwe, we expect you to show us your drug and pregnancy test results when schools open.”
In a follow-up post that night it offered parents with queries some help: “Marpe clinic offers: drug test R200; pregnancy test R50. For more info please contact the number [on the] poster.”
The response to the initial statement was varied. It appears that none of the parents had an issue with the drug tests, but many felt it was unfair for pregnant pupils to be singled out when they didn't get into the position by themselves.
Principal Sizo Butshingi said this would not be the case, however. He said pupils who were found to be pregnant would be treated with dignity. He said none of the students with positive results would be turned away.
“It is important that we know the status of the individuals so we can provide the care they need. Those who test positive will be treated with dignity. Last year we had three incidences of pregnancy. The girls were in matric. Two of them passed with flying colours after taking a month of maternity leave,” he said.
“When girls hide their pregnancies it can contribute poorly to [their] development. Some girls who hide their pregnancies could resort to dumping the foetuses or harming the child [in an attempt to cover up the pregnancy].
“The girls could go into labour during exams. It is an attempt by us to save the [unborn child].
“We cannot send pregnant learners packing but it must be brought to the parents' attention. If she is willing to disclose the name of the father — and if they are in the school — then we will also counsel the father.”
Butshingi said many did not know that the school has programmes to help pupils in need. This includes the “Soul Buddies committee”, which meets to talk with pupils on “stimulative and provocative” topics.
As for the drug test: “It is an open secret we're living in a society riddled with drugs. Our school is growing popular. Last year we had a top-performing learner [Simamkele Bongo was the top student in the quintile 2 category] and produced 107 distinctions. This has attracted parents to our institution but we could tell that many were using the school as a rehab centre. [This is not a] dustbin where parents can dump children.
“The confidence in our leadership has grown. In 2019 [the year Butshingi became principal of Xolilizwe] a parent brought in a learner who was heavily on drugs. He was from a school in KwaZulu-Natal but on the verge of dropping out. In 2020 he received three distinctions.
“We have committees in the school which work 24 hours [a day] to deal with such learners.”
Butshingi said the decision to ask pupils to provide drug and pregnancy tests was made at a joint meeting with parents and student leadership councils last year.
We felt it prudent to attempt to make parents and learners take full responsibility for their actions.Principal Sizo Butshingi
“The meeting was packed and we arrived at the decision. We felt it prudent to attempt to make parents and learners take full responsibility for their actions. This is an attempt to sensitise them to the dangers of drugs. Once they are aware that they will be tested, they may act responsibly over the festive season.
“We can't make this our admissions policy as it will be in contravention of the education policies, but we hope it will help. We appeal to stakeholders to look at it positively — whoever is identified will be protected and treated with dignity.”
National basic education department spokesperson Hope Mokgatlhe said if this was the school's policy then it was not in accordance with the rights of the pupils.
“No, it can't be. There must first be a suspicion to test ... And I'm not even talking about pregnancy — that will show later on. With a drug test, it depends on the policy of the school but there must first be a suspicion before the test. But testing for pregnancy or drugs is not an admissions policy,” said Mokgatlhe.
According to basic education policy, there should be no exclusion of pregnant pupils who must remain in school during their pregnancies and return soon after giving birth.
According to TimesLIVE's sister publication DispatchLIVE, Eastern Cape education spokesperson Mali Mtima said a team had been sent to investigate to ensure that students were not discriminated against.
Mtima said anything preventing a pupil from accessing education was against the constitution and a parent's consent was needed before any tests were carried out.
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