Suspended pregnant pupil back in school

2010-11-05 09:12

Johannesburg - A grade nine pupil from Welkom was back in school after being suspended for being pregnant, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said on Friday.

"An investigation...revealed that the action of the school violated the following provisions which seek to protect the learner's ability to enjoy her right of access to education," SAHRC spokesperson Vincent Moaga said in a statement on Friday.

The pupil was back at school on November 1, after being suspended on September 15. She had lodged a complaint with the commission who then intervened on her behalf.

The commission's investigation found that the suspension violated three provisions for pregnant pupils.

The first was a provincial education policy that ensured pupils were not expelled from school because of pregnancy.

The Constitution provided that the state could not unfairly discriminate based on pregnancy, which the school had to abide by as it was an organ of the state.

The last provision was in the South African Schools Act, which only allowed exclusion from class if a pupil had been suspended and excluded after being found guilty of a misconduct as stipulated in a code of conduct.

School policy under investigation

Moaga said the school had argued that its code of conduct provided for a pupil not returning to school in the same year its child was born.

"In addition, the age of the learner is also irrelevant, whether the learner will be too old to attend school after giving birth is irrelevant because recommendations can be made for adult education."

The commission was investigating the impact of the school's policy on any other pupils who may have been affected but never approached the SAHRC for intervention.

"While the Commission understands the formidable challenges that schools have to deal with to accommodate pregnant learners, it nonetheless wishes to urge them to be sensitive when dealing with such cases," Moaga said.

It wanted to reassure the public that it did not condone pupil pregnancy as it viewed it as an impediment to effective learning and preparation for a healthy adult life.

"(SAHRC) will therefore continue to work with stakeholders to eradicate the socio-economic challenges that cause teenage pregnancy."