Gauteng MEC for Health and Wellness Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko pleaded with learners not to squander the opportunity that being born free afforded them.
Nkomo-Ralehoko said this while addressing Nkumbulo Secondary School learners in Ekurhuleni on Wednesday during the provincial back-to-school campaign.
“Education is the cornerstone for your personal growth and empowerment. It has the power to transform your lives for the better, open unimaginable doors of opportunity for you, and equip you with the necessary knowledge and skills to thrive in this world,” the MEC said.
Nkomo-Ralehoko reminded learners of the great potential they each have of being able to achieve greatness and make their dreams a reality.
She, however, told them they needed to be prepared to fight for the future they dreamt of.
“And part of that fight is about not falling into the trap of temporary pleasures that can lead to a lifetime of regret. It is about being able to prioritise your education, exercising discipline, and making choices that will pave the way for a successful future.
“As future leaders of this province and our country, there are many expectations about you and a lot rests on your shoulders.”
The MEC further touched on the problem of teenage pregnancy among young people in schools and around the communities.
Nkomo-Ralehoko said engaging in sexual activity at a young age can have severe consequences, both physical and emotional, saying that included social and economic.
She said that can lead to unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, and disrupt one’s education.
“Therefore, as boys and girls, you must understand the risks involved and make informed decisions about your bodies and ultimately your futures. The challenge of teenage pregnancy is a societal one and requires a whole societal approach.
“That is why as a government we have committed to partnering with various sectors such as the faith-based organisations, the traditional authorities, youth formations, academic institutions, civil society organisations, and many other institutions to address this pandemic effectively.”
According to the MEC, the number of teenagers who were giving birth at government facilities was alarming.
Nkomo-Ralehoko’s utterances follows the report that was presented by Basic Education to the portfolio committee on basic education in 2021, which revealed that one in three girls aged between 10 and 19 years in South Africa fell pregnant and did not return to school.
“We have seen children between the ages of 14 and 19 years giving birth at health facilities across the province. In this current financial year, we have already recorded over 13 700 babies born of teenage mothers.
“It important to make you as learners aware of the factors that contribute to teenage pregnancy. I am not alone – our team of professionals from the Departments of Health and Education are also here today to provide comprehensive services through the Integrated School Health Programme,” said the MEC.