Pregnant pupils were pulled out of class at a KwaZulu-Natal school and told not to return until they had given birth. Picture: Lebohang Mashiloane

Durban - Pregnant pupils were pulled out of class at a KwaZulu-Natal school and told not to return until they had given birth.

The girls, along with those suspected of being pregnant, were taken to the principal’s office where they were told to bring their parents so the directive could be explained to them.

One pupil said the principal of a high school near Dundee threatened to bring in nurses to “test” the girls to see if they were pregnant.

A teacher allegedly ended up doing the tests.

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education said on Wednesday that its district education inspectors were working to get the pupils back into school.

Spokesman Muzi Mahlambi said while the department was shocked at the high number of pregnant pupils at the school, the principal could not stop them from attending classes.

“These pupils need to be given a second chance so that the poor souls they are carrying have the chance to have parents who have an education and can provide for them.”

Mahlambi could not confirm a newspaper report that 23 pregnant pupils had been stopped from attending classes at the school this year.

“The mere fact that this number has the possibility of having accumulated over a specific period of time is sick,” he said. “This is a social ill that must be fought.”

About five pregnant pupils returned to the school with their parents.

“When I returned with my mother, we each had a one-on-one with the principal. He said that he was not denying us our education but his fear was that we could give birth in class,” said the heavily pregnant pupil, who has since transferred to another school.

She said the principal told them that those who chose to continue at the school must have their parents at their side until the end of the school day in case they went into labour.

According to a parent, it was not the first time pupils were told this.

“I understand why he (the principal) is doing this – he is trying to make our children see that it is wrong to fall pregnant while in school.”

Pupils suspected of being pregnant were told to return with pregnancy test results to prove they were not pregnant, said one pupil.

“When I returned with a letter from the clinic saying that I wasn’t pregnant, I was told by the principal that I had colluded with nurses, forging the letter. He said he would get nurses to come to the school to test all the girls.”

The pupil said some of the girls were tested by a teacher.

She said she tried returning to school on Wednesday after being ill but was turned away by the principal who told her that she had “too many stories”.

“The principal told us that he had been given a list of the girls that were suspected to have been pregnant.

“He told me that I was gaining weight in a manner he didn’t quite understand and that was why he suspected I was pregnant.”

A total of 12 971 KZN schoolgirls had fell pregnant in 2010 and 2011, according to statistics provided by the department.

“Despite programmes run by the departments of education, health and social development in schools, many pupils still are pregnant.”

Mahlambi said there were no current figures available.

“There are numerous risks associated with pregnancy. This means that in 2010/11, almost 13 000 children were possibly HIV positive. This also means that 12 971 children were having babies. The cycle of poverty cannot be broken like this, it only becomes a vicious cycle.”

Mahlambi said pupils needed to know that they were “agents of change”, as they could become the first in their families to obtain a matric qualification.

Most pregnant pupils ended up going into labour at school because they hid the pregnancy from their parents and peers, he said. “When they hide the pregnancy this means that they don’t go for antenatal check ups, and if there is anything wrong with their pregnancy, there’s no early detection and or intervention.”

Mahlambi said: “Teachers are not trained midwives, teachers are trained to deal with chalk, textbooks and disciplining children.”

He said parents needed to take some responsibility for the “pandemic” because there was no “getting pregnant lesson” in school – the “getting pregnant” happened outside school.

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