Bid to keep pregnant pupils in school

The Department of Basic Education wants to pass a new policy on the rights of pregnant school pupils.
The Department of Basic Education wants to pass a new policy on the rights of pregnant school pupils.
Image: MICHAEL PINYANA

South Africans have until the end of next month to have their say on a proposed national policy that seeks to prevent and manage the pregnancy of school pupils.

Earlier this year the Department of Basic Education issued a gazette inviting comments on the policy.

The department has since extended the deadline for written submissions to July 31.

According to the department, the main objective of the policy is to assert the constitutional rights of pregnant pupils by ensuring that they continue and complete their basic education without stigma or discrimination.

Department spokesman Elijah Mhlanga said the rate of pupil pregnancy has become a major social, systemic and fiscal challenge for the basic education sector and for national development.

In Eastern Cape, 254 pupils fell pregnant in the 2016 academic year, some as young as 12 and 13 years old.

Spokesman for provincial education Loyiso Pulumani said of those who fell pregnant in 2016, 209 were from secondary schools, 36 from combined schools, eight from primary schools, and one was at a special needs school.

The proposed policy sets out goals, guiding principles and policy themes to reduce incidences of pupil pregnancy.

"The policy seeks to ensure the accessible provision of information on prevention, choice of termination of pregnancy, care, counselling and support," said Mhlanga.

"In particular, it commits the basic education system . to providing comprehensive sexuality education crucial to optimal sexual and reproductive health.

"Of central importance, this policy asserts the constitutional rights of pregnant learners to continue and complete their basic education without stigma or discrimination."

If passed, schools will be required to accommodate the reasonable needs of pregnant pupils to ensure that their right to education is not disrupted or ended by pregnancy or birth.

In cases where pregnant pupils have to be absent, the school will be required to retain their place in the and allow them to return and complete their education.

Pupils over six months pregnant will be required to submit a medical certificate indicating the estimated delivery date to her teacher or principal certifying that it is safe to continue with her schooling beyond eight months of pregnancy.

Comment can be made via
e-mail to: pregnancypolicy@dbe.gov.za or fax to 012-328-8401. The draft policy is available on www.education.gov.za

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