Anthony Benadie MPL
Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga
The dramatic increase in the number of teenage pregnancies in Mpumalanga is putting the lives of thousands young female learners at risk, and should be a serious cause for concern to all.
During her 2013/14 budget speech, education MEC Reginah Mhaule announced that a staggering 1564 young girls fell pregnant in the first two quarters of 2013. This signals a drastic increase from 1 602 teenage pregnancies recorded in 2012, and the 1478 recorded in 2011.
In many of these cases the teenage girls never complete their schooling career and do not enjoy sufficient emotional and psychological support during and after their pregnancies. If left unaddressed our province could see as many as 5000 teenagers falling pregnant this year.
While many social and economic factors are at play, which result in promiscuous teenage sexual behaviour, the fact is that thousands of young mothers are left to their own devices after falling pregnant, indicative that government’s social interventions are clearly not working.
These pregnancies not only change the course of a teenage mother’s entire life, but also have a direct economic impact on our province and country.
While any pregnant teenage girl must be given the best emotional and psychological support during pregnancy and after birth, we simply have to deal with the behavioural causes as well.
To this end, the DA believes that we need to address the societal circumstances within which many teenagers find themselves, namely:
- The breakdown of family structures, family values and moral norms;
- The breakdown of community values and the increased exposure to social evils such as drug and substance abuse;
- The existence of abusive relationships, inter-generational relationships and multiple partners;
- Inadequate sex education before the age of 14;
- Severe lack of extramural activities such as sport and cultural activities that provide a safe haven for children to develop mentally, socially and emotionally; and
- Poverty and the lack of employment opportunities and the insufficient motivation to advance one’s life and career.
In addition, we cannot allow teenage mothers to become part of a lost generation. Therefore adequate functional support networks need to be put in place to act as a safety net for teenagers who have fallen pregnant and forced to leave school to care for their babies. In this light:
- Pregnant learners must stay in school for as long as possible before the birth of their children;
- After the birth, encourage the learners to return to school as soon as possible, by providing day care centres, staffed with competent care-givers in areas with a high prevalence of teenage pregnancies;
- Provide pre and post natal classes for young mothers;
- Provide mothers with a grant until such time that matric has been obtained and the learner leaves school; and
- Implement the Youth Wage Subsidy and reserve a portion of this subsidy for the employment of young mothers.
Teenage pregnancy cannot merely be dismissed as ‘naughty teenage behaviour’ that needs to ‘stop’, but should rather been seen as a symptom of our society today. As leaders and responsible citizens we all have a responsibility to diagnose the problem, address its cause and provide support to teenage mothers who often find themselves engulfed by circumstances beyond their emotional or physical control.