Gauteng talks tough on teenage pregnancy

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Johannesburg – Despite a decrease in the rate of teenage pregnancy among Gauteng learners, the provincial Department of Education is looking at what more can be done in schools and across the community to prevent “premature parenthood”.

According to the 2009 Annual School Survey, teenage pregnancy amongst children of school going age has decreased from 0.5% in 2008 to 0.4% in 2011 - a 20% improvement.

The survey shows that out of 953 175 female learners registered in 2008, 4 874 fell pregnant and out of 1 040 762 registered in 2011, 4 217 fell pregnant.

Gauteng Education MEC Barbara Creecy has highlighted that campaigns against teenage pregnancy in South Africa were starting to bear fruit, but the department was looking at what more can be done.

“Our common goal is to ensure that fewer and fewer young women face responsibilities of parenthood before they have completed their own education, have found a decent income and they are in a position to raise their children in the relative security of adulthood,” Creecy said.

She was speaking at a departmental colloquium on Tuesday. The colloquium was aimed at discussing the role of schools and government organisations in decreasing teenage pregnancy rates and thrashing out the role of the broader community, especially parents, youth organisations and faith-based organisations can play.

Creecy stressed that addressing teenage pregnancy was a battle that required the active involvement of all stakeholders.

“We must develop a holistic community-based approach with the school as a key component to the strategy.”

She said the key pillars that positively affect teenage pregnancy prevention should include involving families, strengthening academic skills and opportunities, providing employment counselling and job search support.

Others include involving young people in their communities like volunteers, advocacy, peer training as well as involving the community in expanding life options for youth like network with community organisations.

The department has introduced various intervention programmes to increase access to quality education and improve learner behaviour through life skills programmes as well as HIV and AIDS programmes in school.

“The healthy living curriculum has been incorporated in the school curriculum to raise learner awareness and deal with change behaviour amongst learners. To ensure that girl learners do not fall victim to early pregnancies, government has put into place a number of mechanism and programmes to educate all children on reproductive health,” Creecy said.

She defended the Life Orientation subject, which some have criticised as a waste of time, saying that it dealt with the holistic development of the learner throughout childhood.

“It equips learners with knowledge skills and values that assist them to achieve their full physical, intellectual, personal, emotional and social potential. The subject encourages learners to acquire and practice life skills that will assist them to become independent and effective in responding to life’s challenges.”

The Life Skills HIV/AIDS Sexuality Programme focusses mainly on sexuality health education and extra-curricular activities that assist children and youth with coping with the impact of HIV and AIDS.

Lisa Vetten, who has worked in the area of violence against women since 1991, stressed the need for informed education on reproductive and sexual health. At the colloquium she detailed information on contraception as well as friendly health services that do not stigmatise.

Vetten also said there was a need to look at access to termination of pregnancy services and start teaching about reproductive health earlier to empower teenagers with information.

“Interventions also need to focus on boys and men, design programmes to reach poorly performing girls and their families early and ensure that all those who teach sexuality programmes are informed and comfortable with the subject,” Vetten recommended.

Dr Elizabeth Floyd, who is the Director of HIV and AIDS  and STIs within the Gauteng Health Department, said the department had set a target of 100% condom use for youth and for sex outside marriage and increase the age for first time sex to over 15 years.

“Our target is to reduce the number of sex partners to one and to know your HIV status to increase to over 90%,” said Floyd.

Stakeholders attending the colloquium called for the return of the religious education in school, they also agreed with Creecy that teenage pregnancy needed everyone’s attention, and not only the department’s responsibility.

“Let’s stop making the schools the dumpsites for our children. We must be responsible for our children and support teachers and learners,” said one parent in a meeting. –