With the aim of seeing a drastically reduced rate of teen pregnancy among students in South African schools, a school in Mpumalanga has asked school students to sign a non-pregnancy commitment form.
According to Education department spokesperson Jasper Zwane in Mpumalanga, the DM Motsaosele Secondary School drafted a document where it asked pupils to put their names on an agreement to “commit that I will not get pregnant during the 2017 academic year”.
The education department has made plans of sending a support team to the school to help them ensure that students keep to the commitments they made on the paper.
The support team would also ensure that a sanctioned pregnancy prevention programme for teens is properly implemented.
“According to the report received from the school in question, they were trying to be proactive to address this and were not intending to [violate] the progressive laws of the country,” Zwane said on Friday, adding that that the school had already supplied a report on the document.
Zwane equally revealed that a survey conducted by the department found that in the first term of 2016 there were 1 361 pregnant pupils in Mpumalanga schools, compared to 1 496 in 2015.
“While there is recorded reduction in numbers, these figures are disturbing especially when you discover that in some areas 14-year-old girls fall pregnant thereby becoming mothers when they should be enjoying their youth.
“Education department is very serious about teenage pregnancy.”
Zwane said the department encouraged schools to implement measures to curb teen pregnancy, but noted that these needed to be within the confines of the law.
“Our learners need to focus on their studies, empower themselves to be responsible citizens and everything possible must be done working side by side with different role players to achieve this.”
Constitutional Court ruling confirmed years back, that schools cannot expel students for becoming pregnant as over 180,000 school girls get affected each year.
Looking at the case of teenage pregnancy in South Africa, BBC’s Pumza Fihlani reported a Human Sciences Research Council, World Bank which estimated that 182,000 of South Africa’s teenagers become pregnant each year; 180 out of 1,000 pupils become pregnant or make someone pregnant; and Teenage mothers account for 36% of maternal deaths every year.
Though these numbers might differ in the course of the years, schools lament how difficult it is to handle students who are expectant mothers.
South African Schools Act of 1996 says pregnant students cannot be expelled but schools say they are forced to do so because they are not trained to provide support to expectant mothers.
The school authorities also find it difficult to reveal which students are pregnant as some girls go to great lengths to hide their protruding bellies, including wearing oversized tops and always carrying their rucksacks at the front.
Nevertheless, those who are finally caught are forced to leave school in order to take care of their children and many of them never return.
Many pregnant students admit to regularly having unprotected sex, sometimes with multiple partners.