Help needed on teen pregnancies

2013-01-26 00:00

IN 2011, 400 fewer schoolgirls fell pregnant in KwaZulu-Natal than in 2010.

However, with the reduced figure sitting at 10 595, and the 2012 numbers still being tallied, the Education Department is concerned; concerned enough that it has enlisted the help of other government departments to tackle the three main societal issues facing youngsters: teenage pregnancy, substance abuse and violence.

Speaking at the province’s first Social Ills Conference in Durban yesterday, Education MEC Senzo Mchu­nu said 666 pupils in the Amajuba District had fallen pregnant in 2011. This, he said, was a large number.

However, Amajuba had recorded fewer than half the pregnancies counted in the Vryheid District, which had the highest number of teen mothers in 2011, with 1 752.

The MEC said the large numbers worried him.

“More than 10 000 children get pregnant. You can’t put them in a bus going anywhere; you need trains.”

Mchunu said the numbers also had implications for HIV/Aids statistics. It was apparent that the 10 000 children who fell pregnant were not using condoms, he said.

“It’s going to be very hard to win the war on HIV and Aids if children in [school] uniform get pregnant.”

Mchunu also slammed teachers who force children into relationships.

“You can’t approach a 14-year-old child if you’re a teacher and say you love her,” he said, adding that they would pursue teachers who preyed on their pupils “seriously”.

He said pregnancies also contributed to the dropout rate at KwaZulu-Natal schools.

Mchunu also told the conference — which was attended by teachers, NGOs, school governing bodies, traditional leaders, Arts, Culture, Sports and Recreation MEC Ntombikayise Sibhidla-Saphetha and Social Development MEC Weziwe Thusi — of incidents where pupils were caught drinking alcohol during breaks, children as young as 13 being hooked on dagga, and children selling drugs and carrying weapons at schools.

Mchunu asked all stakeholders present to help address the pregnancy, substance abuse and violence issues because his department could not do it alone.

Education Department head Nkosinathi Sishi said the report from the conference would be tabled before the KZN cabinet next month so that these issues and proposals become a government agenda.

The chief executive officer of the South African Council for Educators, Reg Brijraj, said 95% of teachers that were struck from the council’s roll were those who had had relationships with pupils.

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