Why The Current School Drop Out Rate Is Raising Concerns

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The increasing number of pregnant teenage girls in schools has become quite concerning. During a gathering recently held in Kimberley, it emerged that the school dropout rate due to pregnancy is also on the rise. 


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South Africa already grapples with a high school dropout rate, that is now further on the rise due to the increase in the number of school girls falling pregnant.

The Northern Cape Department of Education has revealed that more than 5000 learners were reported as pregnant from April 2020 to June 2021. The Department says that this high figure of pregnant learners is a contributing factor as to why the school dropout rate is on the rise.

Of every three learners who fall pregnant, only two will return to school.

Some learners who have had babies have chosen not to return to school, as they are taking care of their children alone and are often left without support.  

An anonymous 20-year-old girl, who fell pregnant at 15-years-old (allegedly at the hands of a man who had sexually assaulted her and who is someone that her family knew), says the experience has been miserably life-changing. 

"I was very sore and shameful, because I have nothing. I have nobody to support me, to stand by me. I am everything, a mother and a father, in this house", said the girl. 

According to Stats SA, more than 45 000 births that took place in 2021 were from mothers aged 17-years-old and younger. Earlier this year, a similarly shocking statistic revealed that around 11 287 girls in Limpopo have been reported as pregnant between April of 2021 and March of 2022.

A total of 42 of these births were from girls aged between 11- and 12-years-old.

Ethics Manager of the South African Council of Educators (SACE), George Moroasui, mentioned that a lot of the cases within the 11 287 teenage girls in Limpopo that are reported as pregnant are the results of non-consensual sexual encounters. 

The report which revealed the staggering number of young girls, aged between ten- and nineteen-years-old, also revealed the horrifying revelation that 11 teachers were terminated from their teaching positions after it was discovered that they had impregnated some of their learners.

Having 11 confirmed-guilty perpetrators seems small in comparison to the large number of 11 287 cases. Moroasui attributes this to the number of cases that are left unsolved due to the lack of cooperation between parents of the victims, the victims themselves and the relevant authorities. 

Although government and the Department of Basic Education (DBE) has been working on enforcing and implementing measures to protect young girls who fall pregnant while still in school, there is still much to be done. One such measure is the Learner Pregnancy Policy.

The Prevention and Management of Learner Pregnancy in Schools Act is grounded in supporting learners who fall pregnant.

The Act makes provision for the arrest of individuals who have perpetrated statutory rape, stating that schools will now be required to report pregnancies to the South African Police Service (SAPS) if the pregnant learner is under the age of 16-years-old and was impregnated by a man 18 years and older.

This is considered statutory rape in South Africa.

South Africa's laws dictate that anyone under the age of 18 is considered a child, but the Sexual Offences Act lists the age of consent as sixteen and older for all genders and sexual orientations. Laws stipulating the ages of consent mainly exist to protect children from sexual predation and exploitation. 

The law further states that no child under the age of 12 can consent to sex.  Any sexual act with a child under the age of 12-years-old is considered statutory rape or sexual assault. In the context of the above-mentioned report, a lot of girls falling within the relevant age demographic could not give consent and are therefore victims of rape.

South Africa has a prevalent culture of "blessers" and "sugar daddies" which also contributes to the manipulation tactics older men use to prey on vulnerable school girls, which can lead to the high rates of teen pregnancies that South Africa is currently facing, as well as the high dropout rate from schools. 

Often times, the default reaction is to solely blame the girls for the situation they find themselves in, without stopping to consider the fact that these learners are still children, impregnated by partners much older than them or through cases of sexual assault and Gender-Based Violence. 

The immorality of older men in positions of power who actively chose to pursue and groom these young girls is ignored, forgetting that they also played a role in getting the situation to where it is now. 

DBE Spokesperson, Elijah Mhlanga, has also joined the conversation, stating that unplanned teenage pregnancies have become almost "normalized", due to the fact that guardians, family members and neighbours in communities do not report potential cases of statutory rape to the authorities. 

In addition to implementing the Learner Pregnancy Policy, the DBE has also tried to combat the skyrocketing numbers of unplanned pregnancies and dropout rates of children in schools by coming up with Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE), in order to help learners recognize the dangerous behaviours of potential predators and to educate them on safe sex practices. 

If you or anyone you know has experienced violence (at any age and of any kind), please contact the following National helplines:

National GBV Helpline 0800 150 150
LifeLine South Africa 0861 322 322
AIDS Helpline 0800 012 322
National Counselling Line 0861 322 322
Childline South Africa 0800 055 555
South African Police Service 10111
Legal Aid

 

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Male learners in classroom doing school work

Although South Africa was already facing a serious crisis in the form of school dropouts before the pandemic, the impact Covid-19 has had on the education system further added to the crisis.

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