1000 schoolgirls fall pregnant in one year - Grade 5 pupil youngest on list

The problem of teen pregnancy is spiraling out of control, with older men being blamed for fuelling the scourge of school kids falling pregnant.
The problem of teen pregnancy is spiraling out of control, with older men being blamed for fuelling the scourge of school kids falling pregnant.

A Grade 5 pupil was among the 1000 schoolgirls who fell pregnant in Ekurhuleni last year.

"One learner in Grade 5 was pregnant, which is something that is unheard of. The cult of blessers continues to prey on the vulnerability of our youth in and out of schools.

"We want to call on the so-called blessers to stay away from our young women," said mayor Mzwandile Masina yesterday, when he addressed a youth summit in Boksburg.

The shocking figures are from the more than 620 schools in the region.

When Masina's office was asked to give more details about the ages of the youngest pupils who fell pregnant in Gauteng last year, they said the department had declined to reveal more details.

Gauteng department of education spokesman Steve Mabona confirmed that a Grade 5 pupil fell pregnant in one of the schools, according to last year's figures.

MEC Panyaza Lesufi admitted that teenage pregnancy was a headache.

"It is a society that we are in, to be quite frank," Lesufi said. He said the department would release statistics on teenage pregnancy in September.

Section27 - the public interest law centre that uses the law to protect, promote and advance human rights - said statistics were reflective of what was happening across the country.

"We have very shocking rates of learner pregnancies," said Section27 executive director Mark Heywood.

He said this also showed that education programmes on sex and sexuality had failed drastically to reduce the scourge.

Heywood said the increase in pregnancies among school children was also driven by the fact that girls were vulnerable to sexual abuse.

National Professional Teachers Organisation of SA's Basil Manuel said the statistics were shocking.

"I know that Ekurhuleni is not the only place and it is certainly not the worst. This is truly heartbreaking," Manuel said. He said the sad fact was that girls often ended up dropping out of school despite the laws protecting their right to education.

Manuel said the blesser culture was also a problem, with older men preying on young women.

"The vast majority are being impregnated by these older men and not their peers."

Secretary-general of the National Association of School Governing Bodies, Matakanye Matakanye, said parents must work with schools and communities to fight the scourge.

"This is a societal issue. These children are getting pregnant within the communities," Matakanye said.

Meanwhile, Masina has encouraged pupils to blow the whistle on blessers.

"It is important for us, as the leadership of the city, to call on young people, teachers and parents to make sure we take good care of our learners. We really have to stand together as a community and begin to say, 'not in our name'."

Modise Koetle, head of the youth unit in Masina's office, said the city would embark on a programme to tackle the scourge of teenage pregnancy.

"Some of the interventions we are going to embark on are vocational work programmes targeting teenagers during the holidays. Other interventions include planned sports, arts and culture programmes to curb the idleness which leads to social ills such as teenage pregnancies," Koetle said.

Mabona said they have a number of programmes to discourage early sexual activity, including life orientation programmes that focus on overall personal wellbeing.

Masina also revealed that half of students at one of the Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges in the region were HIV- positive.

"In one institution, which I would not [name], we found out through our health practitioners that half of the school was HIV-positive. We then called for the programme of government to respond directly so that we can save many lives."

He said the abuse of drugs and other substances was rife in the communities.

Basic Education spokesman Elijah Mhlanga told Sowetan that the issue of pupils falling pregnant was a societal problem.

"Sexual activity does not take place in schools. It happens there in society where old men sleep with the kids."

Mhlanga said in some cases pupils were raped and given money.

"It is not just pregnancies, it is HIV/Aids as well. It requires concerted efforts from everyone," Mhlanga said.

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