Teenage pregnancy rates are on a constant rise, this has sparked conversations among children's rights experts and parents. Some children's rights experts even question whether the laws that are meant to be protecting children are being implemented.
Almost 35 000 births were reported amongst pupils in 2020, 688 of these pupils aged between 9 and 10 years old whilst 2976 girls (10-19) chose to terminate their pregnancy.
The figure was revealed by the Gauteng Department of Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi in a written response to questions from the DA tabled in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature.
The Northern Cape has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy for girls aged 10 to 19, with 19.3% of girls in that age group giving birth between April 2020 and March 2021.
The Department of Basic Education had also come up with interventions to remedy this problem. The department had submitted a draft policy on the prevention and management of learner pregnancy in schools and the cabinet approved this policy two months ago.
“The policy provides for an enabling environment to support learners and prevent discrimination against pregnant learners. It also provides for access to comprehensive pregnancy prevention information; counseling and care guidelines, as well as the setting up of policy management and coordinating structures,” said Cabinet.
The policy has gone through extensive consultation with all relevant stakeholders and is aligned with all relevant laws.
Some child law experts believe that child protection laws aren’t correctly implemented.
“There are a couple of cases whereby healthcare professionals and social services professionals is held accountable for not reporting the crime against the child or not referring the child to the Child Protection System.
It is just simply not acceptable to allow these children to deliver and go home to what is potentially an abusive situation. Which is more likely that we are going to see these children again”, said Joan van Niekerk, researcher, and children's rights expert.
Children need to learn about these different services so that they know when they need protection and where they should go for that protection.
The different government departments include Education, Finance, Health, Social Development, and Justice and Constitutional Development as well as the South African Police Service.
There are laws in place to protect children and there are steps to follow to make this possible.
These are the steps a person must follow in the case of abuse or neglect: If a report of abuse has been made to a police official, then the police official must make sure the child is safe and then tell the Department of Social Development or an organisation, like Child Welfare, within 24 hours.
After the report has been made, a social worker must make sure the child is safe and make sure that the information in the report is truthful.