Thousands of teens, children are pregnant
A TOTAL of 160 754 cases of teenage pregnancy were recorded in just two years, according to Statistics SA, and the Department of Basic Education says it cannot solve the problem on its own.
Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga told Parliament in a written reply that although her department had taken “an active role” in trying to address the issue of teenage pregnancy, it could not do it alone because “it is a battle that requires active involvement of stakeholders, including our sister departments, civil society, (the) faith community and organised business”.
She said the department was trying to combat the problem through various programmes, including peer education through the Girls and Boys Education Movement, based in schools and run by the pupils themselves. It was a forum where issues, including teenage pregnancy, were discussed.
NGOs had also partnered the government in the fight against teenage pregnancies.
Resources Aimed at the Prevention and Child Abuse and Neglect (Rapcan) had assisted in piloting the Care-for-a-Doll programme in two provinces. Pupils were given dolls to care for throughout the year.
Motshekga said the main purpose of this initiative was to “try and impart a sense of responsibility” to children in understanding the duties of being teenage parents. She said it was hoped that “their tough experiences” of taking care of the doll would “deter them from risky behaviour” that could lead to pregnancy.
Stats SA recorded 160 754 cases of teenage pregnancy between July 2008 and July 2010, according to Motshekga.
NGO Afrika Tikkun spokeswoman Delia Engle told Independent Newspapers not only was teenage pregnancy a pressing matter, but child pregnancies in primary schools were also becoming more frequent.
She identified several reasons for the increase in the child pregnancy rate, which was higher in poorer communities.
She said unemployment was adding to the problem because children and teenagers were falling pregnant under the illusion that the child support grant offered by the government would be sufficient to provide for the needs of the family. Most of the children and teenagers were growing up in very small homes in which they were inevitably exposed to sex at a young age. Cellphone and other technology accessibility was increasing as most of these children were not being monitored by their guardians.
Engle said while curbing child and teenage pregnancy was a huge task, “it is not a losing battle, but it’s difficult”.
Donor relations officer at Afrika Tikkun Catherine Taylor echoed Engle’s comments on child pregnancies, saying when she had done talks in some schools in the Western Cape, she had not been “aware of the extent of the problem”. She had found three pregnant children in one of the primary schools alone.
The organisation had received assistance from the Social Development Department, but had mostly been funded by donors.
Motshekga said her department was working on drafting regulations on pupil pregnancy which would guide schools on how best to deal with these cases.
In the past year her department had trained 18 039 life skills and Aids teachers, more than the set target of 17 160.