Farnaaz Khan... looked at the pressure young women faced at school when they fell pregnant.

DURBAN: LOCAL pupils who have fallen pregnant have said their teachers made them feel as if they were doomed.
This was the finding of law academic Farnaaz Khan, who received her PhD at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s first spring graduation in Durban last week.

Khan researched regulations and policies on the management of pregnancies throughout KZN secondary schools and at a hospital school in Pretoria.

Her investigation, conducted last year, revealed that pregnant pupils from more than 10 Durban schools suffered some kind of stigma from school management, which lowered their confidence and drive to excel academically.

Khan described how they confided in her about their traumatic run-ins with teachers.

“One pupil I interviewed told me there was a poster on the wall showing a female going to university and her teacher told her that she would never be able to do so because she was pregnant.”

Khan said she admired the resilience of pupils who continued to reach for their dreams in spite of being made to feel like lesser individuals.

A 20-year-old from Tongaat was harshly criticised for falling pregnant close to the end of her matric year.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, she said teachers and friends would whisper around her about her pregnancy.

“I knew of the talk going around and the teachers were indifferent to it,” she said.

The teenager, whose relationship with the child’s father has ended, said her pregnancy would not prevent her from completing her tertiary education.

“I appreciate brave girls who choose to continue with their studies and build careers.”

Vee Gani, who chairs the KZN Parents’ Association, said the criticism was a form of bullying.

“We don’t condone pupils falling pregnant, but it is a reality and criticising them is a verbal form of bullying, which is not allowed,” he said.

Gani called for teachers to protect pupils as they were vulnerable and needed support.

“We need to remind pupils of their rights and point them to organisations that offer support.”

Chatsworth-based psychologist, Dr Guru Kistnasamy, agreed.

“Pregnancy is a shock that does not go away for a long time. The girl gets depressed and is often ostracised. When the boy does not take responsibility, a support system is needed,” he said.

Kistnasamy recommended that education, cultural, religious and political organisations provide sex education for the youth.

Kwazi Mthethwa, spokesperson for the KZN Education Department, said a pregnant pupil was expected to attend school until her health was affected.

“We do not encourage teen pregnancies, but there should be tolerance at schools.

“Just because a girl is pregnant doesn’t mean she is no longer human,” he said.

Khan, who lectures at the UKZN School of Law, gave birth to a girl last week. She said she would continue to fight for women’s rights.

“I want to see a move away from the stigmatising and criticism of girls who land up in this situation,” she said.

SUNDAY TRIBUNE