Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga wants the government to be proactive when it comes to curbing teenage pregnancy among scholars.
Last month, the Eastern Cape came under the spotlight after it was reported that the province recorded 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.
On Tuesday, SABC News reported that the minister has submitted a new policy to the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education which seeks to bring this under control.
It is expected that the committee, once it starts its work, will deliberate on the policy proposal.
According to the ministry, the policy seeks to prevent the expulsion of pregnant learners from schools while at the same time seeking to provide them with pre- and post-natal support.
This is as research by Statistics South Africa suggest that at least 4% of learners between the ages of 14 and 19 years fell pregnant between 2018 and 2022, resulting in the department wanting to take a more proactive approach to deal with the crisis.
This new policy wants to force learners who are over six months pregnant to submit a medical certificate indicating the status of their pregnancy and estimated time of delivery.
Learners will also be required to provide medical reports to their appointed educator or school principal in order to guarantee their safety in continuing with their schooling.
The new policy allows pregnant learners to be in school until they are at least eight months pregnant and if the learner does not have a medical certificate, she may be asked to take leave of absence until proof is provided.
Those who are under 16 years of age will be required to furnish the school with a mandatory police report which provides clarity on the civil and criminal proceedings against the male partner, if he is over the age of 16 years.
For teachers who are fingered in making scholars pregnant, this will result in criminal charges against them.
Last month, Independent Media reported that Eastern Cape Health Department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said the province would be embarking on a massive awareness campaign against the problem.
“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 underage pregnancy for statutory rape investigations,” Kupelo said.
Advocate Nthabiseng Sepanya-Mogale, chairperson of Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), told SABC News that most of the learners who fall victim to teenage pregnancy never return to school.
“It has been confirmed by the study undertaken by the CGE that a significant number of learners do not return to school afterwards. They are usually lost to the education system forever. This deepens poverty in their families for themselves and their children.
“Our other concern is that some are underage and this confirms statutory rape is rife. There is a need to train our front-line duty-bearers, especially educators, health workers and social workers to report such cases to police officers and also encourage parents to report,” she said.
The proposed policy wants learners to return to school after pregnancy.