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SPECIAL REPORT: Left holding the baby

Every year the statistics are shocking and this year is no different. At least 23,226 school girls in Gauteng fell pregnant between April last year and March, some of them as young as 10 years old, according to the provincial health department. 

While the high rate of teenage pregnancies is not a new phenomenon in our country, we must resist the temptation to view this crisis as simply one in a long list of our troubles that may some day miraculously resolve itself.

Nor should we engage in momentary shock and soon after carry on with business as usual. This is precisely because behind these numbers are real people – girl children who are mostly black and live in conditions of poverty. Many of them were raped, either forcefully or statutory through sexual cohesion that is illegal in our country. 

Sixteen-year-old new mom, Dineo*, says her mother used to warn her about boys and would often use her own sister, who is left to take care of her children after their dad left them, as an example.

But the teenager, who is from Nellmapius, Mamelodi, eastern Pretoria, said she regrets not listening to her mother after giving birth to her own child and is desperate to return to school to finish her study.

Yolanda* was only 14 years  old when her curiosity about sex was ignited. At 15 she was engaging in unprotected sex purely to impress her teenage boyfriend.

Now the 17-year-old mother is juggling school and motherhood while the father of her child has moved on to other relationships with other girls at university.

Matric pupil Keneilwe's son was only three months old when her mother died in May and she saw her life crumbling down.

The 19-year-old from Soshanguve, north of Pretoria, on Wednesday told Sowetan that her mother had played an important role in helping her raise her child.

Now that her mother is gone, the teenager relies on her 72-year-old grandmother to help her. Her son is now six months old.

A 24-year-old woman who fell pregnant when she was 17 has urged young mothers to learn from their mistakes, saying quitting is not an option.

Molatelo Kgatla, a teacher from Lenyenye, outside Tzaneen, in Limpopo, had a child when she was in grade 11 and had to drop out of school. 

“We started dating in January last year and he would ask when we would have sex. I was not comfortable with it because I was taught in school not to have sex until I was done with my studies. But some of my friends had had sex and I felt left out.” 

This is how a 15-year-old Pretoria girl made the life-changing decision that saw her join 23,000 pupils who fell pregnant in Gauteng in the past year. 

The 16-year-old is one if 23,226 children and teenagers who are reported to have fallen pregnant or given birth between March last year and April in Gauteng.

Monica fell pregnant after she was raped in December by a neighbour who lured her into his house.

Sex education should not only be the responsibility of girls, says social auxiliary worker for Songe Social Change Bongiswa Maliwa.

Maliwa on Wednesday told Sowetan that it was important for schools and society to educate boys about sex and teenage pregnancy – a role that has been largely put on girls’ shoulders.

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