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NGOs alarmed by 90 000 pregnancies of 10 to 19-year-olds

Girls aged between 10 and 19 have recorded 90 000 pregnancies between April 2021 and March 2022. Picture: ANA Archives

Girls aged between 10 and 19 have recorded 90 000 pregnancies between April 2021 and March 2022. Picture: ANA Archives

Published Jul 1, 2022

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Cape Town - Girls aged between 10 and 19 have recorded 90 000 pregnancies between April 2021 and March 2022.

This was revealed by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga this week when she was responding to parliamentary questions posed by DA MP Desiree van der Walt.

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Motshekga said she obtained the data from the Department of Health, showing that KwaZulu-Natal again recorded the highest number of teenage pregnancies at 24 230.

Hot on the heels of KwaZulu-Natal is Gauteng with 13 814 teenage pregnancies, Eastern Cape with 12 582, Limpopo with 11 287 and Mpumalanga with 8 840.

The Western Cape recorded 6 543 teenage pregnancies, North West 5 635, Free State 4 444 and Northern Cape 2 662.

The figures appear fewer than those recorded by Statistics South Africa three months ago.

StatsSA had in March that annual data on live births recorded in the country found that a total of 106 383 births registered at the Department of Home Affairs occurred among adolescents in 2019.

It also found 129 223 births were delivered by adolescents in public health facilities.

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Motshekga said schools were required to provide an environment where all pregnant learners could access professional advice, referrals, treatment, care, counselling and support.

“The department protects the rights of learners to education, including continuation of schooling through accommodating reasonable absence due to pregnancy, and provision of continuous educational support post-delivery while facilitating earliest return to school.

“Furthermore, through partners such as Global Fund, learners are given early childhood development (ECD) vouchers so that they can leave their children in ECD centres while the learner is continuing with schooling,” she said.

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The minister also said other departments had a role to play in ensuring that the pregnant learners were linked to services such as antenatal and postnatal care provided by the Health Department.

The Department of Social Development and the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) provided access to the child support grant and other social support, among others, she said.

Molo Songololo director Patric Solomons said the figures were shocking.

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“We are very concerned. What is even more shocking (is that) the ages are getting younger.

“We have to look at what we are doing that puts our children at such high risk of becoming parents at a very young age. Girls are stigmatised, ostracised and marginalised, all because someone made them pregnant, a man.

“We observe in people’s responses that everybody blames the children; everyone blames the girl. There is no focus on the men and boys who make girls pregnant. Most of these girls became pregnant through a criminal act. Most of them had sex forced on them, they are unable to negotiate he terms of their sexual engagement because we still live in a very misogynistic society,” he said.

Solomons added that high sexual exposure, girls being sexualised from a young age and cybercrime were also contributing factors.

“We need to look at the behaviour and conduct of men and how families and society keep silent about that behaviour.

“Parents also needed to be educated on how to talk to their children about sexual reproductive health, and how to call out men in the family who are inappropriate,” Solomons said.

Manenberg Children's Movement co-ordinator Tarra September said that over the last two years, Covid-19 resulted in many children being left unsupervised.

“Children did not have much schooling and had no organised programmes to participate in. Then there is also the issue of overcrowded homes with a lack of privacy, leaving more children vulnerable to observe sex between adults. The child’s innocence is removed by what they are introduced to.”

According to September, a lack of love especially in poor communities could also lead to high sexual engagement and a high prevalence of teen pregnancy.

“Grooming is also a big problem because children are vulnerable and unsupervised. Community centres are also not open like they used to be.”

When asked what steps were being taken by her department to educate the learners about the long-term implications of falling pregnant at a young age without finishing school, Motshekga said the comprehensive sexuality education was offered through life skills and life orientation subjects.

She stated pupils were taught about goal setting and how they could reach their full potential.

“Furthermore, the department also holds Career Jamborees and Future Choice where learners get to see different career paths that they can choose,” the minister said.

Motshekga said the Career Jamborees and Future Choice campaigns were held with other government departments, including Health.

“Sexual reproductive health and rights information, and services are provided, which include content on the consequences of early and unintended pregnancy,” she added.

Cape Times

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