Johannesburg - Concerns have been raised about the effectiveness of sex education campaigns in Gauteng after the alarming revelation that over 23 000 teenage pregnancies were recorded from April 2020 to March 2021.
Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi, in response to questions tabled in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature by the DA’s Refiloe Nt’sekhe, revealed that 23 226 teenage pregnancies were reported in the province during that period.
The MEC revealed that girls aged between 10 and 14 gave birth to 934 babies, while girls aged between 15 and 19 gave birth to 19 316 babies. According to Mokgethi, 2 976 girls aged between 10 and 19 opted for a Choice on Termination of Pregnancy.
Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) spokesperson Steve Mabona said the department was concerned about the number of reported teenage pregnancies in the province and that the GDE always discourages any form of activities that may have a negative impact on the education of pupils in schools.
“Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi has always stressed that teenagers should delay their first sexual experiences as it is not our wish that they give birth while still at school. This is because the heavy responsibility of parenthood impacts negatively on learners’ ability to continue with their studies,” Mabona said.
Mabona added that at the same time, it needed to be noted that the department’s policies allowed for pupils to stay at school while pregnant and return as soon as possible after giving birth.
Nt’sekhe said that the alarming number of reported teenage pregnancies indicated a great need by the GDE and the Gauteng departments of Social Development and Health to strengthen their teenage pregnancy and sex education campaigns to conscientise Gauteng teenagers.
“Teenage pregnancy impacts negatively on educational opportunities for young girls, especially those without the proper support and help, and they are less likely to finish high school and pursue a career to support their families,” she said.
The DA has demanded that the aforementioned departments intensify their campaigns against teenage pregnancy to 365 days a year and make teenage pregnancy prevention a priority in schools.
The party urged parents and guardians as well as different stakeholders to work with government departments to assist in curbing teenage pregnancies.
“Teenage girls should be taught about the consequences of teenage pregnancy and preventative measures to curb this. As for girls who are under the age of consent, they should also be taught their rights in this regard and to know, at no point, is anyone allowed to force themselves onto them,” Nt’sekhe said.
She added that the future of Gauteng’s girls can be saved through behaviour change with the correct knowledge and guidance provided by the provincial government.
Mabona, however, said that the GDE’s curriculum, through the HIV and Aids Life Skills Programme and Life Orientation, addressed issues of teenage pregnancy with the aim of empowering pupils to take the right decisions about their bodies.
“Parents are also encouraged to play their role in instilling discipline in their children, who are our learners, in and outside school, in order to help them better navigate the challenging times of being a young adult.”
Non-profit organisation Shout-It-Now’s spokesperson Isabella Blewett said that teenage pregnancy was not an isolated issue.
“While these numbers are deeply troubling on their own, the gravity of these figures exponentially increases when you also look at the compounding issues of gender-based violence, HIV incidence, youth unemployment and poverty, all of which disproportionately affect adolescent girls and young women 10 to 24 years of age,“she said.
“We need to empower (girls) with the right information, ensure they have access to quality, non-judgmntal services and support them to become the next generation that leads this great county,“she said.