A health worker inserts a contraceptive implant into an housewife's arm during a Family Planning fair conducted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Tondo, Manila July 11, 2012. Pitting himself against the teachings of the country's powerful Catholic church, Philippine President Benigno Aquino, a Catholic like 80 percent of the population, has thrown his support behind a reproductive health bill that will, if passed, guarantee access to free birth control and promote sex education. Picture taken July 11, 2012. REUTERS/Erik De Castro (PHILIPPINES - Tags: POLITICS HEALTH SOCIETY POVERTY) ATTENTION EDITORS: PICTURE 16 OF 27 FOR PACKAGE 'CONTRACEPTION, STATE AND CHURCH' SEARCH 'REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH' FOR ALL IMAGES

Johannesburg - The Gauteng Department of Education is considering providing schoolgirls with contraception in the form of an implant to curb the scourge of teenage pregnancies.

The department said female pupils continued to fall pregnant even though sex education formed part of the curriculum.

Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said his department was working with the Gauteng Department of Health to check whether they could introduce the implant at schools.

He said that if the department were to go ahead with the plan, it would be voluntary and no one would be forced to get it.

“We are now finalising an agreement with the Department of Health that will allow us to manage teenage pregnancy. They have a product, an implant, and you put it underneath your armpit. If you consent as a learner and if you consent as a parent, I am told it prevents a learner from falling pregnant for three years,” said Lesufi.

He said although the department did not expel pregnant girls, he was worried about teenage pregnancy.

Gauteng has two hospital schools that cater for pregnant pupils who are in their third trimester. That is because when they’re that far along in their pregnancy, they’re not allowed to attend normal school and have to enrol at hospital schools and pay the fees.

Lesufi said the enrolment numbers at the schools in Joburg and Pretoria had gone up steadily.

“Teenage pregnancy worries me. I recently visited these schools and it shocks me that you see young learners at the age of 15 and 16 falling pregnant easily. When I interview them, you can see that it’s the socio-economic conditions they find themselves in.”

Lesufi said his department was looking at offering the implant to willing schoolgirls with the consent of their parents.

He admitted that the authorities could not prevent more schoolgirls from becoming mothers prematurely and that the implant would not solve all the problems that came with unprotected sex.

“My worry is that it’s not only pregnancy; if you have that thing you will see a rise in STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) because people believe ‘I can’t fall pregnant’ and, therefore, (not use condoms).

“We are in discussions to deal with all other matters.

“(The implant) must not be a passport for you to now engage freely (in unprotected sex) because you know you can’t fall pregnant.

“Sometimes you solve one problem by creating another problem,” he said.

Department of Education spokeswoman Phumla Sekhonyane) said the implant was just one method to prevent teenage pregnancy that they were exploring and was on the table for discussion.

“Like the MEC said, it has pros and cons.

“It will help teenager pregnancy, but what policy is there for boys, because it takes two to fall pregnant?” she asked.

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The Star