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Cape Town -
About 2 000 pupils a year fall pregnant in the Western Cape.
Of these only about a third will go back to school and complete their education after they have given birth.
The Western Cape Education Department has developed a policy to provide step-by-step guidelines on how principals and governing bodies should support pregnant pupils to ensure they stay in school, says spokesman Paddy Attwell.
The Constitutional Court is hearing the case of pupils who were excluded from Welkom and Harmony high schools in the Free State after falling pregnant and made to leave school for the rest of the year.
Department spokesman Paddy Attwell said that 2 108 pupils had fallen pregnant in the Western Cape in 2010, and in 2011 the number was 2 097.
“Our Cape Winelands district reported the highest number of learner pregnancies in 2011, followed by Metropole East, and Eden and Central Karoo,” he said.
The aim of the department’s policy was for pregnant pupils to finish matric.
“The department treats pregnant learners sensitively as learners with special needs, with access to counselling by social workers and psychologists based in our district offices.
“The (department) works with our schools and other departments such as Health and Social Development to provide appropriate support.”
He said that the kind of support given to pupils depended on their medical condition and the stage of their pregnancy.
“Alternatives include staying at school for as long as it is medically advisable. The school will provide learning materials and support while the learner is away from the school.
“The family must make arrangements for continuing education if the learner is away from school for the duration of the pregnancy.”
The policy also provided detailed guidelines on how to manage exams for pregnant pupils, particularly those in Grade 12, depending on their stage of pregnancy.
Attwell said statistics were not available on the number of pupils who returned to school after giving birth.
He encouraged pupils in need of assistance to contact the Safe Schools Call Centre on 0800 454647.