School kicked pregnant girl out

2008-02-23 00:00

HOëRSKOOL Voortrekker in Pietermaritzburg is readmitting a girl it expelled because she was pregnant — after the Education Department forced it to observe the law.

The mother of a 17-year-old girl, who fell pregnant while doing grade 11 at the school last year, said she told the headmaster last February when she first found out about it herself.

She said the principal made it clear that teen mothers would not be allowed back to school as this would send out an “inappropriate” message.

The mother said she was coerced by the headmaster into getting a transfer to another school, but subsequently discovered that it was illegal. “I am so angry ... The principal took advantage of the situation. He knew I was traumatised … He told me point blank that my daughter could not come back to school.”

She said the school refused to state in writing that her daughter could not come back and that was when she started suspecting something was wrong.

Education Department spokesman Ntokozo Maphisa said policy is clear: pupils may not be denied access to education on the basis of race, gender, religion or discrimination of any form, including pregnancy.

He added that they may also not be subjected to any disciplinary action as a result of their pregnancy.

However, it appears the school’s policy is not just limited to pregnant mothers — boys who impregnate girls have also been expelled.

The mother of an 18-year-old boy said the headmaster told her son to leave Voortrekker because “he had sinned by making his girlfriend pregnant”. “He said if he takes him back he will have to change the rules and that this was against their Christian ethos.”

Despite efforts to get a response from the department, her son, who was also in grade 11, has had to spend the past year out of school battling to find a job.

“It is hard enough to find a job with a matric certificate. What type of future will my son have?

“I am a single parent and now he has a 10-month-old baby to worry about. These children were caught only because his girlfriend fell pregnant. What about the other children who are having sexual intercourse? Shouldn’t that be the root of the Christian ethos?”

The issue of pregnant teenagers is one of the department’s greatest challenges in the province.

In his state of the province address last week, Premier S’bu Ndebele touched on the matter, saying there are an unacceptable number of teenage pregnancies.

He said about 5 000 school pregnancies are reported every year.

The department contacted Weekend Witness almost a week after its original query to them, and said that the matter involving the 17-year-old girl had been resolved between all parties concerned and that she would be allowed to return to school on Monday.

Previously, the department had said that the school was full and that was the reason the school had given for them not taking the girl back.

The girl’s mother told Weekend Witness late yesterday that an announcement was made at assembly yesterday morning that her daughter was not wanted back, but that the Education Department forced the school to readmit her. When the mother complained to the department that her family are now being victimised, she was told “there is nothing more to be done”.

The department, in response to the allegation of victimisation, has appealed to teachers to protect the interests of the child, and put aside their personal interests.

The department said it is monitoring the school closely and “SAPS officials are there and investigations are under way”.

Headmaster Jan Nel confirmed he addressed the issue at assembly. He said he was simply relaying the feelings and sentiments of the Voortrekker community, which are based on Christian values.

“We are trying to uphold our values and as far as we are concerned that was misconduct. Sexual conduct is unacceptable.” These values, he said, are spelled out to each pupil when they join the school.

He said he was under enormous pressure from the rest of the parents not to condone the behaviour.

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