Girls still in primary school are among the many learners who have become pregnant. This shocking update emerged during a consultative meeting facilitated by NACOSA, a network of civil society organisations working to turn the tide on HIV, Aids and TB.
The meeting was discussing the issue of teenage pregnancies – and what to do about it.
During deliberations, organisations working with children and the departments of health and education raised their concerns about the high rate of pregnant teenagers in the Northern Cape.
NACOSA said it was looking at how best society can prevent learners becoming pregnant and also ways to support pregnant learners who are still at school.
The members of the community admitted they hadn’t provided enough support for pregnant learners, which is why most drop out and never go back to school to finish their studies. There were reports that some of the learners fall pregnant while they are in primary school.
Members of the organisations working with children said they would strengthen their support systems and raise awareness of teenage pregnancies.
The Department of Education urged parents to get involved because schools cannot support pregnant learners by themselves. Some of the parents at the meeting resolved to take care of their children’s babies or find nannies to assist so the learner could continue with school.
Stakeholders also said there was a need for schools to have counsellors to help learners during these difficult times, and to encourage other learners to support the pregnant learner and not discriminate against her. Teachers were also urged to communicate with the learner about schoolwork that needed to be submitted so when the learner is on maternity leave she doesn’t fall behind.
The Department of Health said organisations should refer pregnant learners to antenatal clinics as soon as possible. The meeting also discussed extending the maternity leave to give the young mothers enough time to receive post-natal care services, including counselling, before they are back in class.
A pregnant teenager told Health-e News that dropping out of school was her only option because she wanted to bond properly with her child and breastfeed him. “I will go back to school after my baby is two,” said the 14 year old, who was in Grade 8 when she found out she was pregnant.
“I am already emotionally attached to my baby after I saw him in the ultrasound scan. I have accepted the situation now.”
An edited version of this story was published by Health24.