Teen preg­nan­cies hit 99 000 a year

School­girls are fall­ing preg­nant at an alarm­ing rate, ac­cord­ing to the latest stats. And some of the fathers are teach­ers and prin­ci­pals

CityPress - - Front Page - SIPHO MA­SONDO sipho.ma­sondo@city­press.co.za

More than 99 000 school­girls fell preg­nant in 2013 – a rate of about 271 for ev­ery day of that year. This is a dra­matic in­crease from the 81 000 pupils who fell preg­nant the pre­vi­ous year and 68 000 in 2011. The latest fig­ures, re­leased by Stats SA as part of its Gen­eral House­hold Sur­vey fo­cus­ing on schools, have trig­gered some­thing of a panic among ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials, who are call­ing it an “alarm­ing cri­sis”. Due to sta­tis­ti­cal lag, the fig­ures for last year are not yet avail­able.

The SA Coun­cil for Ed­u­ca­tors (SACE), the depart­ment of ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion and Gaut­eng ed­u­ca­tion MEC Panyaza Le­sufi have la­belled the fig­ure a “cri­sis” and “un­heard of”. They have re-em­pha­sised the need for dras­tic im­prove­ment in sex­ual ed­u­ca­tion and ac­cess to con­tra­cep­tives such as con­doms.

In re­sponse to this cri­sis, Le­sufi said he ac­cepted the blame for the pro­gramme of sex­ual ed­u­ca­tion (part of the life ori­en­ta­tion cur­ricu­lum) not yield­ing div­i­dends.

“We need a dras­tic re­view of [sex ed­u­ca­tion] pro­grammes. The en­tire so­cial clus­ter of gov­ern­ment should take the re­port se­ri­ously and do some­thing about it.”

The re­port, he said, showed that par­ents were not guid­ing, sup­port­ing and mon­i­tor­ing their chil­dren. “It is an alarm­ing sit­u­a­tion, and is un­heard of.” He said it would, how­ever, be un­fair, nar­row and shal­low to ex­pect the depart­ment to deal with the prob­lem on its own. “It’s a so­ci­etal is­sue,” he said.

Depart­ment spokesper­son Eli­jah Mh­langa said par­ents, guardians and schools should in­ten­sify ed­u­ca­tion on the mat­ter.

He added that sta­tis­tics in­di­cated that sex­ual de­but hap­pened even ear­lier than pre­vi­ously thought among young peo­ple. With­out pro­tec­tion, that led to preg­nancy and sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted in­fec­tions.

“It is in­deed a cri­sis that so many of our learn­ers fall preg­nant and their ed­u­ca­tion gets neg­a­tively af­fected,” said Mh­langa.

He added that although there were mea­sures in place to deal with the prob­lem, the depart­ment was work­ing on fur­ther strate­gies.

“The em­pha­sis of the pol­icy is on ed­u­ca­tion, care and sup­port for learn­ers. One of the pro­pos­als in the pol­icy is to make con­doms avail­able where nec­es­sary and un­der spe­cific con­di­tions, and this in­cludes both pri­mary schools and high schools. Sta­tis­tics also show that even at pri­mary school level, learn­ers are fall­ing preg­nant,” he said,

He added that the depart­ment had pub­lished a draft HIV- and TB-man­age­ment pro­gramme in schools.

Though most of the preg­nan­cies would have re­sulted from sex among the young­sters them­selves, the fig­ures have once again cast a spotlight on teach­ers hav­ing sex with, and im­preg­nat­ing, their pupils. This of­fence car­ries the manda­tory sanc­tion of dis­missal.

The SACE’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, Rej Bri­jraj, said last year the coun­cil found 56 ed­u­ca­tors guilty of dif­fer­ent cases of mis­con­duct. Twenty-eight had their sen­tences sus­pended, 18 were struck off the roll of reg­is­tered teach­ers for def­i­nite pe­ri­ods and 10 were axed from the pro­fes­sion. Most of those who were axed or struck off the roll had been found guilty of hav­ing sex­ual re­la­tions and im­preg­nat­ing pupils.

Bri­jraj said many cases of teach­ers im­preg­nat­ing school­girls went un­re­ported.

“The main rea­son some teach­ers get away with im­preg­nat­ing pupils is be­cause they strike deals with par­ents and prom­ise to marry the girls or pay them huge amounts of money in re­turn for si­lence,” he said.

Le­sufi, who was ap­pointed to his po­si­tion in May last year, said he had al­ready dis­missed a num­ber of teach­ers who were found guilty of hav­ing sex­ual re­la­tions and im­preg­nat­ing pupils.

One of those school­girls who was preg­nant in 2013 was a pupil at a high school in Stanger, KwaZulu-Natal. Her prin­ci­pal is the fa­ther of her baby. He is still a prin­ci­pal at his school.

A se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tor in the ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment in KwaZulu-Natal said the prin­ci­pal, whose name is known to City Press, re­mained in his job be­cause he was a se­nior mem­ber of teach­ers’ union Sadtu.

“His pun­ish­ment was hav­ing his salary sus­pended for three months. The girl was moved to another school in Um­lazi.”

But the depart­ment de­nied knowl­edge of the prin­ci­pal im­preg­nat­ing the girl. Spokesper­son Sihle Mlotshwa said “the case of im­preg­nat­ing a learner was never brought be­fore the depart­ment”.

“We will have to in­ves­ti­gate these se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions. What was brought be­fore the depart­ment was an al­leged re­la­tion­ship with the learner. He was charged with im­proper con­duct. The learner didn’t give any ev­i­dence. [The prin­ci­pal] pleaded guilty on that charge and was then sanc­tioned,” said Mlotshwa.

In a sim­i­lar case in Set­lagole, North West, a prin­ci­pal al­legedly im­preg­nated one of his pupils.

How­ever, no com­plaints were laid against the prin­ci­pal as he had bought the fam­ily’s si­lence, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple close to the case.

A se­nior of­fi­cial in the ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment in North West said: “The Public Pro­tec­tor also in­ves­ti­gated the is­sue, but the fam­ily did not co­op­er­ate, be­cause the prin­ci­pal was sup­port­ing them fi­nan­cially. A teacher at the board­ing school, out­side Mahikeng, said the prin­ci­pal would bring the girl into one of the ser­vants’ quar­ters and sleep with her there. He ac­tu­ally slept with many school­girls there.” The prin­ci­pal could not be reached for com­ment. Mh­langa said so­ci­ety needed to deal harshly with adults who im­preg­nated learn­ers.

“There are cases where adult men tar­get young girls.”

We need a dras­tic re­view of [sex ed­u­ca­tion] pro­grammes. The en­tire so­cial clus­ter of gov­ern­ment should take the re­port se­ri­ously and do some­thing about it

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