By Rabbie Serumula
In this age of becoming, where the world is both witness and participant, an unsettling reality unfolds — a reality where 15-year-olds are giving birth on one hand and taking lives on another.
How did we arrive at a point where the joys of new life are juxtaposed with the shadows of innocence lost and futures shattered?
As we celebrate the arrival of newborns into our world, we must shed light on the shadows cast by social and economic issues that plague our society, manifested in the children of teen child bearers and the victims of teen murderers.
On Christmas Day, the Limpopo province welcomed 209 newborns, a moment of joy tainted by a concerning statistic — 50 of them born to teenage mothers. The youngest, a mere 15 years old, gave birth to a 1kg baby. This surge in teen pregnancies reflects a growing trend, with 17 more teenage mothers compared to the previous year in the province.
This unsettling phenomenon resonates across provinces as a Department of Social Development report reveals that over 88,000 schoolgirls between 15 and 19 gave birth in hospitals during the 2022/23 financial year. KwaZulu-Natal leads with a staggering 25,239 births, followed by the Eastern Cape and Limpopo. Shockingly, the report also reveals that girls aged 10 to 14 are not spared, delivering 2,328 babies – children of children.
In this dire predicament, the Department of Basic Education acknowledges the need for intervention. Protocols are in place, yet the urgency of the matter demands a closer look at prosecution and preventative measures.
Organisations are calling to label these pregnancies as what they are — statutory rape. The plea for justice emphasises the health and socio-economic implications, particularly on the education of girl children. But no one is answering their call.
As if teen pregnancies weren't distressing enough, another facet of becoming emerges — a 15-year-old was arrested for fatally stabbing an 18-year-old friend on the Christmas weekend. A shocking incident that adds to the sombre narrative, underlining the urgent need for addressing the mental and emotional challenges faced by our youth.
The age of becoming keeps shrinking. The teenage murderers, like unwitting protagonists of a dark fable, embody the consequences of neglect, misguided innocence and a society that sometimes fails to shield its youth from the shadows they unwittingly cast. Their actions, no different to a sudden storm disrupting a serene landscape, leave us to grapple with questions that extend beyond the bounds of legality.
The age of becoming keeps shrinking. The teenage mothers, like delicate seeds forced to bloom prematurely, mirror the untimely blossoming of flowers in an unseasonable spring. Just as these blossoms face the challenges of an unexpected climate, teenage mothers navigate the uncharted territory of parenthood in this storm of societal expectations and economic hardships. They are trapped in the web of systemic issues that cultivate an environment where the flowers of youth bloom too soon, exposed to the elements of a world not yet ready to shelter them.