Education department tackles teen pregnancies, school violence

Wednesday, August 24, 2011
By: 
Francis Hweshe

Cape Town - The Department of Basic Education says while there are known instances of teachers having relationships with learners, it is yet to conduct its own study to establish the facts and statistics of the phenomenon.

The department said the South African Council of Educators had highlighted the problem at a recent roundtable meeting.

The department also expressed concern that youngsters were increasingly becoming perpetrators of violence.

This was revealed on Wednesday when top officials from the department appeared before Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities.

The delegation briefed the committee on teenage pregnancy and violence in schools as well as access to education for learners with special educational needs.

The department's Gender Equity director, Hleki Mabunda, said that a study released in 2009 had shown that teen pregnancies were more prevalent in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Eastern Cape provinces.

She said the report had cited that these pregnancies were most common in poorer neighbourhoods marked by poverty, where schools were also under resourced.

The report revealed that children were learning about sex on the streets and on the internet.

In response to challenge, Mabunda said their strategy was "rights based, multi-sectoral" and included partnerships with various government departments.

The department was improving access to sex education and the dangers of early and unprotected sex such as HIV and Aids.

Life Orientation classes in the curriculum were also being used to create awareness on the problem. There was also a need to re-establish mobile clinics for health screening in schools, where health professionals, instead of teachers, would be able to identify pregnant youngsters, said Mabunda.

She said that it was illegal for a school to chase out pregnant learners, and those who had given birth should be "given a second chance."

She highlighted that while they did not want to promote child motherhood, teen mothers should be supported to care for their children, adding that "cool time" - the period in the afternoon when learners leave school - was "dangerous" and could result in learners falling pregnant.

Instead, she said that "cool time" should be used for various sporting activities to keep the learners busy.

On combating violence and harassment in schools, the department said that it was working with the police and communities and other stakeholders to ensure that learning session were not disturbed.

The aim was to link all schools to a police station and have a police officer as member of the safe school committees, it said.

The department said that every school should be gun-fee and have a safety plan outlining short, medium and long time goals.

It has urged communities and parents to take ownership of their schools and ensure that they were safe.