An “alarming” 2 148 pupils in the Western Cape fell pregnant in 2017, the provincial education department said on Thursday.
But while the numbers based on the department’s annual survey are “of grave concern” to Education MEC Debbie Schafer, the number has been declining over the past three years.
In 2015, 2 880 instances were recorded, which decreased to 2 412 in 2016.
“Teenage pregnancy is one of the biggest challenges that we face, and several programmes in our schools are contributing to the decline in instances year-on-year,” Schafer said in a statement.
A number of pregnancy prevention workshops targeting girl and boy pupils between Grades 5 and 11 have been held, with course content focused on teenage sexuality, healthy relationships, sexting and the emotional and legal consequences, understanding pregnancy, avoiding teenage pregnancy, challenges of being a teen parent and the importance of completing high school and beyond.
Wellness centres are also run at two high schools in an area with a very high prevalence of teen pregnancy in collaboration with the health department.
“Learners have the opportunity to access information regarding health issues, including sexual health and family planning. The centres are run at the schools to eradicate the stigma attached to teenagers visiting the local health clinics, something that usually prevents them from accessing health care and advice from these clinics,” she explained.
“The Cape Winelands Education District in 2016 launched a pregnancy prevention programme targeted at male learners that focuses on the role of the male partner in pregnancy prevention. These projects and courses are ongoing, and we hope that the number of programmes that have been run in schools and districts has contributed to the decline in learner pregnancy in the province.”
The department has a policy designed to encourage pregnant pupils to remain at school and provides guidelines to make this possible, Schafer said.
“The policy recognises that all concerned have roles and responsibilities in this situation, including the school, the parents of the unborn child, and the families concerned. In each case, the principal must discuss these responsibilities with the learner and her parents and must sign an agreement on these responsibilities.”
She acknowledged some cases were as a result of peer pressure or sexual assault, and support and counselling was available for these pupils.
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