12 500 babies born to schoolgirls

12 500 babies born to schoolgirls. Picture: File

12 500 babies born to schoolgirls. Picture: File

Published Dec 23, 2023


The Eastern Cape has once again seen an increase in the number of pupils falling pregnant, with a recent report showing more than 12 500 schoolgirls fell pregnant and gave birth in the province this past year.

Speaking to eNCA, Democratic Alliance MPL Jane Cowley said more than 500 of these pupils were 14 years old, though the provincial department of health had reported only 60 cases of statutory rape.

“It is true. These are the statistics and these are the ones that have been recorded at health facilities. There are many, many more. If you look at the figures from last year, and you look at the charges that have been laid with the SAPS, it is not even a quarter of the lodged births, and this is a massive problem,” she said.

Cowley said there was a general under-reporting of pregnancies and incidents involving children, which could contribute to more cases going unreported.

“This is a massive problem which is highly under-reported. These little girls are not being taken seriously. Sometimes and unfortunately, there is an arrangement. These are all things that need to be spoken about and brought out into the open. We are not going to be able to get on top of this scourge until we know what we are dealing with and until it is public knowledge and come up with solutions that will assist these girls,” she said.

Last year, Independent Media reported that more than 10 000 schoolchildren had given birth the previous year.

It was reported that peer pressure, boys wanting to “show how many girls/women they could have sex with” and sexual abuse were among the contributing factors. Experts said shocking reports showed that nearly 10 000 Eastern Cape girls gave birth within a six-month period last year.

Speaking to Independent Media, provincial health department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said they were starting a drive to tackle the problem.

This included distributing condoms and engaging with other departments to create an awareness campaign.

“The department is working on several interventions. These include condom distribution and offering services at clinics. We are also going to be working with sister departments and law enforcement agencies to report every under-age pregnancy for statutory rape investigations,” he said.

This year’s figures show more than 16 160 girls aged 15 to 19 years old became pregnant. A total of 17 064 pregnancies were recorded in this age group the year before.

In the age group 10 to 14 years old, there were 444 recorded pregnancies. In the same age group the year before, there were a total of 553 pregnancies.

All the province’s eight districts recorded double-digit pregnancies and births, with the OR Tambo district recording 4 984 to date for the period 2023/2024, compared to 5 519 the previous year.

Between July and December 2021, 319 children aged 10 to 14 years old, and 9 396 girls aged 15 to 19 years, gave birth at health facilities in the Eastern Cape.

In June last year, in response to a parliamentary question, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga revealed that between April 2021 and March 2022, there were close to 90 000 pregnancies among girls aged 10 to 19.

Last year, Independent Media reported Motshekga as saying – also in response to a parliamentary question – that her department had put in place a number of measures to deal with the problem of teenage pregnancy.

“The department of basic education launched its policy on the prevention and management of learner pregnancy in schools. The policy seeks to reduce the incidence of learner pregnancy through the provision of quality comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) and access to adolescent and youth-friendly sexual reproductive health (SRH) services,” said Motshekga.

Provincial education department spokesperson Mali Mtima said the department was concerned about the latest figures.

He said key reasons for the high pregnancy rates in the province were too much exposure to social media; socio-economic factors; unemployment, resulting in transactional sex; child neglect; broken family structures; and, an increase in the youth unemployment rate.

“The department is not happy with the report as the main thing is to educate the nation and empower future leaders. There are interventions being made, which include the appointment of more than 98 social workers appointed by [the department] to support orphans and vulnerable children, [and] awareness programmes conducted by 800 learner support agents in schools.”

Mali encouraged parents and guardians to support pupils and report challenges to schools for easy reference to the province’s department of social development and other relevant departments, which were partners in the education department’s campaign.

Saturday Star

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