THE SA National Christian Forum (SANCF) has raised its hand and offered to take charge in efforts to curb the high number of teenage pregnancies that have rocked the country during the festive season.
The various Departments of Health across the country have expressed concern over the increasing rate of teenage pregnancies.
At least 411 babies were born at state hospitals across the country on New Year’s Day with a significant number coming from teenage pregnancies.
In KwaZulu-Natal the health MEC Nomagugu Simelane said she was concerned at the rate of unplanned pregnancies after she announced that 260 babies were born on New Year’s Day with 28 teenagers delivering babies.
"The number of teenage mothers was 50, which was made up of one 14-year-old; seven 16-year-olds; eleven 17-year-olds; eleven 18-year-olds; and twenty 19-year-olds," she said.
In Limpopo the youngest mother to deliver a baby was a 15-year old at Malamulele hospital, prompting the province's health MEC Phophi Ramathuba to express concern.
"As a province, we remain concerned by the rate of unplanned pregnancies, which is evidenced through, among other indicators, the demand for safe termination of pregnancy, especially within the 10 to 19 age group.
Last week health minister Joe Phaahla said more than 145 teenagers gave birth in public hospitals on Christmas day alone.
That was compared to last year's figures in which more than 100 teenagers delivered babies both on Christmas and New Year's Day.
SANCF president Bishop Mashashane said churches should be playing a role in convincing teenagers to attend church services which, in turn, would reduce teenage pregnancies.
“On the premise that teenagers who regularly attend religious services are less likely to get pregnant, the SANCF wants to focus on devising ways to increase teen church attendance,” Mashashane said.
Mashashane said the statistics showed that teens who attended church regularly were less likely to get pregnant than those who did not.
“Evidently, churches must be applauded for doing something right, whatever that is. Churches must be funded to share and spread their life-changing message to the entire community.
“The premise that churchgoing teens are less likely to have sex is based on studies dating back to the early days of ages,” he said.
Mashashane pleaded with representatives of various denominations to join the organisation to help develop and encourage educational programmes on sexuality, through religious institutions.
“The SANCF conferences will include workshops on the scope of teenage pregnancy, starting a teen pregnancy prevention programme, the value of values and helping parents teach their children about sex,” he said.
The bishop said the church, like a family, was the primary educator for teenagers when it came to sexuality.
“The school is a good place to get sex education but that, to me, is the last place to get it. You don't have the value systems taught at the schools that you have at the church or the home … The ministers should be involved in this; so should lay people … The church can help break the cycle of teenage pregnancy within our communities.
“One of the things I deem most important to changing this cycle of teenage pregnancy is that churches, who speak each week to the largest black audience collectively of any media, is to reach out and say to our young people that there is virtue in living morally right … that there is virtue in waiting until marriage for sexual involvement,” Mashashane said.