Recent statistics revealed by the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) are alrmining due to the impact of teenage pregnancy. Approximately 34 000 teenagers gave birth last year with 688 of them being younger than ten years old.
In addition to this, over a period of 12 months, 23 226 teenage pregnancies were reported in Gauteng. The report also revealed that girls between the ages of 10 and 14 gave birth to 934 babies.
Department of Basic Education (DBE) Director Coceka Nogoduka says they are working on policies that would reduce the number of teenage pregnancies in South African schools. This as the amount of pregnancies and pregnancy terminations continue to increase every year.
Ngoduka says the number of pregnancies saw a sharp rise during the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.
She said, “we would attribute it to multiple factors but we are concerned that most of these learners might be exposed to sexual exploitation and gender-based violence but also they were at home during lockdown and some of the parents were at work so learners had free time on their hands because they were not at school under the supervision of teachers”.
Ngoduka says the DBE are especially concerned by the number of registered births among girls between the ages of 10 and 14 years old. According to South African law, this would be considered statutory rape.
The age of consent’s legal definition will also be considered in the discussions. Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshega explained teenage pregnancy often leads to lasting socio and economic issues. She argued that Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE) is needed to combat the issue.
Ngoduka says that CSE is already available in school. However, she says collaboration between different governmental departments is needed to ensure that different laws are aligned allow learners to access Sexual and Reproductive Health Services (SRH) at a younger age. This could enable the DBE to be better prepared to deliver the CSE to learners.
“If learners are starting to get pregnant at the age of 10 therefore we need to review the content but we also need to be working with our stakeholders which is our organised teacher unions as well as our parents so that we can be ready to provide that information and be able to make sure that the learners will be ready also to hear the information that will be given to them at the age of 10” concluded Ngoduka.