Pandemic lurks in our homes
Teen pregnancy preceeds the ruthless Covid-19
If you grew up in the nineties, you might remember Pale Ya Puleng (Puleng’s Story). It was a black and white picture story book that addressed the vagaries of teenage pregnancy in an accessible manner.
The story was fun and enticing and you could read it in one sitting and it would stay with you forever. A naive Puleng fell for the charms of the village Don Juan who took her for a stroll to the nearby fields where they engaged in coitus with predictable results.
As soon as Puleng showed the tell-tale signs of carrying a baby in her womb, the guy disappeared. Her uncles would later sjambok him when he showed up on his shiny bicycle.
I stumbled upon the book while I was still too young to sow my seed but the lesson stayed with me to this day. The lesson is you don’t sow your wild oats willy-nilly when you are unable or unprepared for responsibility.
The book did not stop teenage pregnancy because the scourge continued unabated and may even have grown in recent times. I’m sure most of you were shocked that over 36 000 school girls fell pregnant last year, some as young as 10 years old.
According to our law, a 10-year-old cannot give consent and I’m surprised there are no cases of statutory rape under investigation. I was about to blame Covid-19 and the lockdown that forced pupils to stay at home for the last two years but the problem preceeds the virus.
In 2019, 120 000 schoolgirls fell pregnant, with Kwazulu-natal accounting for the highest number at 34 482.
At the time, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga urged society to play its part in ending the high rate of teenage pregnancies.
Last month, the department deployed 3 000 young people known as learner support agents to schools in a bid to prevent pregnant pupils from dropping out. As commendable as that may be, it’s akin to closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. Years ago when Aaron Motsoaledi was health minister, the department secured funds to combat the sugar-daddy and blesser phenomena.
I submitted a proposal for a youth soapie but never heard a peep from the department.
I think the visual arts can be more effective in raising awareness about the perils of teenage pregnancy.
With our children much more techno-savvy, Tik Tok and short videos on social media could be used to tell Pale ya Puleng.
Popular amapiano artists could be roped in to compose songs with a message instead of singing about kuku ha e je papa (songs that encourage reckless sexual activity). Otherwise, Sassa can expect to maintain the thousands of babies that are born to unemployed mothers and their deadbeat fathers.