Source: Democratic Alliance (Cape Town)
Reports that an estimated 45 000 learners fall pregnant each year stresses the need for an effective and holistic learner pregnancy policy.
I will be writing to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, Hope Malgas,
to request that the Basic Education Portfolio Committee
(i) prioritises discussing different policy and intervention strategies for pregnant learners informed by the pending Constitutional Court ruling on the issue of pregnancy policies in schools, (ii) calls for contributions by provincial and national social development and health officials on how to provide an integrated system of support, (iii) call for input from provinces and schools with a high success rate in interventions, (iv) discuss how to ensure parent and society participation and buy-in on the strategy and (v) assesses the strategies in place for family planning.
Learner pregnancy is an issue that affects the most vulnerable of our society. Childcare responsibility is allocated to girl learners, and a national study by the Department of Basic Education found that learner pregnancy rates were higher in schools in poor areas.
With the right interventions and policies, we can ensure that learners are provided the support they need without compromising on their right to basic education.
The Western Cape Education Department has provided a holistic policy and support programme, "Managing Learner Pregnancy in Public Schools", for learner pregnancy that emphasises learners completing their schooling. This includes:
Establishing reporting mechanisms to provide reliable on the ground statistics;
treating learners sensitively with access to counseling by social workers and psychologists based in district offices;
providing advice from our Safe Schools Call Centre;
staying at school for as long as it is medically advisable;
providing learning materials and support while the learner is away;
working with other departments such as Health and Social Development to provide appropriate support; and
providing detailed guidelines on how to manage examinations for pregnant learners.
The policy recognises that all concerned have roles and responsibilities, including the school, the parents of the unborn child, and the families concerned and that the nature of the support depends on the medical condition of the learner and the stages of pregnancy concerned.
In order to ensure that all our children are provided with the opportunities they need to live a life they value, no learner should be disadvantaged due to pregnancy. We must do everything possible to delay pregnancies until young adults are in positions to cope with the responsibilities of parenthood. We must further do everything we can to keep pregnant learners in school for as long as possible, and ensure that after they have their baby, that they are able to finish their studies.
A comprehensive national policy on pregnancy must be the first step towards achieving this critical goal to ensure that basic fundamental rights of the most vulnerable of our society are protected
Annette Lovemore, Shadow Minister of Basic Education