Headmaster Rape Case – Effective pregnancy policy needed in schools

Dr. Allen Grootboom, MPL

DA Northern Cape – Spokesperson on Education

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is concerned at the lack of a provincial policy on school pregnancy from the Department of Education.

The lack of policy coordination has been thrust at the fore once again with a recent media report of a 15-year old learner who fell pregnant after allegedly being raped by the headmaster at a high school in Hopetown. The accused headmaster appeared before the Hopetown Magistrates Court, and was granted bail of R1 500, and released.

The DA supports the calls made by the MEC of Education, Griezelda Cjiekella, that justice not be delayed, however as the political head, she too has a responsibility towards this young woman, and others who find themselves pregnant at school.

School pregnancy is a major problem country-wide, and yet oddly data on this problem remains hard to come by. According to official estimates,

94 000 schoolgirls fell pregnant in 2011. In the Northern Cape, 18% of young women between the ages of 15 – 19 years old reported having fallen pregnant, and 15.2% are mothers.

It is disappointing that the provincial education department, much like its national department, does not have a policy on how to handle and assist learners who fall pregnant whilst at school. This lack of policy coordination became obvious in the MEC’s inability to explain exactly how her Department will assist this learner and others in the province.

As has happened to this 15-year-old learner, who was in Grade 9 at the time of the alleged rape, and is now in Grade 10, she has fallen behind in her studies. The sad reality is most of these learners often fall behind, and many find themselves dropping out of school altogether.

There is therefore a clear need for policy which supports these learners and provides the flexibility needed in schools.

The DA has a policy on handling school pregnancy. In the DA-run Western Cape, the provincial Education Department has provided a holistic policy and support programme, “Managing Learner Pregnancy in Public Schools”, for learner pregnancy that emphasizes learners completing their schooling. This includes:

?             Establishing reporting mechanism 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 the 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.

Our policy recognizes that all concerned have roles and responsibilities, including the school, the parents of the unborn child, and the families concerned.

The DA will be writing to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Education in the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature, Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, requesting that the committee discusses the issue of teenage pregnancy in schools, and require the Education Department to develop a policy to address the matter.

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