Most of them came from KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga, and Motshekga said the numbers of young girls falling pregnant increased with each grade. A total of 172 girls fell pregnant in Grade 7.
A shocked DA member of the portfolio committee on basic education Sonja Boshoff said: “No one in Grade 3, 4 or 5 should be having a child. She herself is a child.
“There is a concern if these children fell pregnant within the confines of the school because a teacher could be involved. The Department of Basic Education cannot allow for sexual harassment or abuse to take place in schools.”
Boshoff said the department had to come up with a policy which would help eradicate this phenomenon, admitting, however, that it would be difficult to stop any form of sexual interaction among children.
The department needed to work with stakeholders and other departments to close in on this looming crisis, she said.
Motshekga, speaking of the problem in Parliament, could not indicate how many of the pregnant pupils were able to return to school after giving birth.
“That is unacceptable. These children are falling through the cracks,” Boshoff said. “This information should shock every South African. Young girls, most under the legal age of 16, are having their futures undermined, likely through being taken advantage of or abused.”
Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the pregnancies of children in these grades were a reflection of what was happening in society.
“We allow adults to molest children and they get away with it because we don’t report them. It’s a challenge for the entire society. They are children before they are learners, which means everyone must be outraged.”
He said the perpetrators came in different shapes, sizes and ages, and so they could not rule out the possibilities of educators impregnating the girls.
“We need to come down hard on all of them irrespective of who or what they are. If we target one group then we let the others off the hook.”
He called to society to take a stand to stop these pregnancies.
“Traditional leaders, religious leaders, parents, the police, community organisations, youth formations. We all need to march and raise awareness about this problem. If we don’t do that then the perpetrators will continue to destroy the lives of the kids.
“There’s no law that will stop this if we don’t back it up with serious action.”
A child below the age of 12 was considered by law to be completely unable to consent to sex and an older person could not use consent as a defence if charged, said Ann Skelton, director of Centre for Child Law.
Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has previously called for integrated contraception on school grounds.
Motsoaledi also brought teenage friendly contraceptives into public clinics, saying parents and society had to accept the sexual activities of their children if the problem was to be curbed.
Brothers For Life ambassador Dr Mbulelo Dyasi said that issues like teenage pregnancies were “discussed in conferences in fancy hotels”.
“We can’t solve community issues in conferences. We need community structures to stand up.”
He said it was getting more difficult for men to address certain issues when they felt disempowered.
Dyasi said there were many men’s organisation such as Brothers For Life all over the country which sought to train men and equip them to address such societal issues but they struggled to get funding.
Such structures could assist in addressing these issues if they received due recognition, he said.