Teen moms live their life-skills lessons

Sunday Times - - NEWS - KHANYI NDABENI

EV­ERY morn­ing be­fore Nh­lanhla Masehla pre­pares for school, she has to bath and feed her baby and change his nappy. Then she packs his bag with for­mula and ex­tra clothes be­fore drop­ping him off at a crèche in Re­filwe town­ship east of Pre­to­ria. The Grade 11 pupil at Chipa-Ta­bane Sec­ondary School in Cul­li­nan fea­tures along­side two other teens, Fanele Mthembu and Thato Man­gole, in the MTV documentary 16 and Preg­nant, which pre­miered this week. The documentary, which seeks to high­light the so­ci­etal, eco­nomic and health chal­lenges faced by teenage girls in South Africa, will also be aired on SABC next month. It is a spin-off of the pop­u­lar US se­ries of the same name. More than 40 000 pupils in South Africa fell preg­nant be­tween 2014 and 2016, ac­cord­ing to the Depart­ment of Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion. Of these, 1 449 were in pri­mary school, 190 of them in Grades 3, 4 or 5. In an in­ter­view with the Sun­day Times at her home in Pre­to­ria this week, Nh­lanhla said she had been sex­u­ally ac­tive since the age of 12. At the time she fell preg­nant, her boyfriend was in his 30s and work­ing at a restau­rant. He would buy her and her friends al­co­hol and she thought he loved her. “I knew I wasn’t the only girl in his life, but I al­ways thought he was us­ing a con­dom with the other girls. I was his main chick and there was no point in us us­ing pro­tec­tion.” Last year doc­tors con­firmed she was preg­nant, and that she was HIV pos­i­tive.

With the sup­port of Mother­s2Mothers — an NGO that helps moth­ers liv­ing with HIV — Nh­lanhla is now on treat­ment and is care­ful not to trans­mit the dis­ease to her six-month-old baby.

“There was a point where I thought of giving my part­ner food poi­son be­fore killing my­self and my un­born child,” she said.

“I loved and trusted him. I used to hate him for what he did, but learnt to for­give. I can’t en­tirely blame him. My mother told me about the dan­gers of al­co­hol, boys and sex but I thought I was street­wise and smart, and that all these things only hap­pened to other girls.”

Nh­lanhla said that by shar­ing her story, she hoped to cre­ate aware­ness among teenagers. At her school, she ad­vises four other preg­nant teens on how to cope with the school work­load and neg­a­tive crit­i­cism from the com­mu­nity.

Af­ter ma­tric, she wants to study to be­come a vet and pro­vide a bet­ter fu­ture for her son.

“Some­times this means I have to at­tend af­ter­noon classes with him when my grand­mother or brother are too busy to look af­ter him for me.

“On those days I fetch him from crèche and go back with him to class. I can’t af­ford to miss any lessons. When I am home I must give him my full at­ten­tion. Ev­ery teacher and pupil at the school knows I have a child and I am also open about my sta­tus,” she said.

Her mother, Si­bongile Masan­abo, said she was very dis­ap­pointed when she dis­cov­ered her daugh­ter was preg­nant, but had to ac­cept her and the baby.

“We Nde­be­les don’t be­lieve in abor­tion. Now I am happy that I have a grand­son.”

MTV Stay Alive Foun­da­tion ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Ge­or­gia Arnold said the documentary high­lighted the sac­ri­fices preg­nant teenagers had to make and the hur­dles they had to over­come.

“We hope to en­cour­age them to take con­trol of their lives and bod­ies by help­ing them to make more in­formed choices about sex, sex­ual health and con­tra­cep­tion,” she said.

Eastern Cape so­cial worker Pamela Rubushe said she had come across sev­eral cases of girls younger than 13 fall­ing preg­nant.

“Most of them are sex­u­ally abused by peo­ple they know. Last year alone I was deal­ing with four cases and the youngest was 11. She gave the child up for adop­tion,” said Rubushe.

Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Angie Mot­shekga said teen preg­nancy sta­tis­tics were “of huge con­cern”.

The Coun­cil of Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ters had ap­proved a na­tional pol­icy for the pre­ven­tion and man­age­ment of pupil preg­nancy, Mot­shekga said.

“The aim is to en­sure young peo­ple gain the knowl­edge and skills to make con­scious, healthy and re­spect­ful choices about re­la­tion­ships and sex­u­al­ity. It pro­vides an age-ap­pro­pri­ate, cul­tur­ally rel­e­vant ap­proach to sex­u­al­ity and re­la­tion­ships.”

Ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion spokesman said Eli­jah Mh­langa: “The depart­ment has var­i­ous in­ter­ven­tions in place aimed at ed­u­cat­ing learn­ers about the im­pli­ca­tions of un­pro­tected sex­ual ac­tiv­ity.”


STREET-WISE: Nh­lanhla Masehla ig­nored her mother’s ad­vice

BABY FACES: From left, Thato Man­gole, Fanele Mthembu and Nh­lanhla Masehla fea­ture in the documentary ‘16 and Preg­nant’

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