Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has urged thousands of young pupils who returned to school on Wednesday, to desist from drinking, smoking and to avoid at all costs, unwanted and unplanned teenage pregnancies.
Motshekga also cited bullying and violence among pupils as an area of concern, urging learners to desist from such unruly behaviour.
Motshekga was speaking during the Gauteng Department of Education’s Back To School programme at the Kgatoentle Secondary School in Ga Rankuwa, Pretoria.
She said drinking, smoking and teenage pregnancies had life-long consequences which were detrimental to the futures of young people.
In recent months, the issue of teenage pregnancies of young girls as young as 10 has been increasingly in the public spotlight.
Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo raised concern in the National Council of Provinces in September last year that 156,000 teenage girls had got pregnant during the 2021/2022 financial year.
Included in the 156,154 teenage pregnancies were 396 girls who were aged between 10 and 14-years-old.
“Some of the things that you do habitually become a problem, because you are used to speaking lies, you are rude and you are violent, this becomes part of your DNA,” she told pupils.
“The best thing is to stop doing those things that you don't need now. What is important is nothing else but your books, focus on your books, we will give you books, you must learn and prepare yourself to be the ones that will be solving the problems in this country, because you are our future leaders.”
Motshekga said smoking, drinking and unplanned and unwanted teenage pregnancies had life-long effects.
“So we really want to urge you not to smoke and drink, because if you do, it's only one way down, there's no way up,” said Motshekga.
“Alcohol effects in the long-term are irreversible, (Home Affairs Minister) Dr Aaron Motsoaledi always says, and at your age, the effects are irreversible and they are not good.”
The minister said the education sector needed to work closer with parents to advance reproductive health education.
She also said in her 15 years as education minister, when she spoke to excelling high performance learners, they all attributed it to hardwork and sacrifice, urging thousands of young learners around the country to do the same.
Gauteng Education MEC Matome Chiloane has called on parents to play an active part in their children's education.
“Parents should take time with you every day. As a parent every day you must ask a set of questions: How was school? Do you have homework? Parents need to really take time with them. Parents have left the development of their children to schools,” said Chiloane.
“It is at home that a child learns a set of values; to say ‘thank you’, ‘please forgive me’ and learn to be a good person. The values of ‘can I help you? Can I assist you?
“It is at home that a child learns that it is not a laughing matter to say someone is fat, someone is chubby - we are here to teach you and confront problems and solve them.”