Department Tackling Bullying And Teen Pregnancy In Schools

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School bullying is an issue that has been plaguing the Education Department for years. The problem has grown, making it unbearable for learners who see no way out. 

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School is meant to be a place of safety for children, where they can learn and grow as people. But, due to the problem of ongoing bullying within schools, many learners choose to drop out completely as the harassment becomes unbearable for them to endure. 

There are many factors that can lead to a learner dropping out of school, such as household income, geography, disability and gender. Add in bullying, and the results can be dangerous. 

Some learners feel that the only way to escape bullies is to either drop out of school or even worse, take their own lives. Studies have shown that the bullying epidemic is constantly growing and becoming worse at schools, and may even continue at some adult workplaces.

Motivational Speaker, Shakes Dlutu, explained that when there is no early intervention, children who bully become adults who bully.

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has implemented a number of strategies to combat bullying and provide assistance to learners who have unfortunately become the victims of bullying at schools, such as the National School Safety Framework (NSSF). 

The NSSF is the Education Sector's guiding framework for schools, and assists schools in managing and responding to violent incidences in schools, which includes bullying. 

According to the Department, "The NSSF empowers schools to identify and manage all safety requirements and to mitigate against threats faced in a school. The NSSF requires every school to establish a school safety committee which is comprised of stakeholders such as teachers, police officers, school governing body members, learner representative council members amongst others.

Furthermore, The NSSF also empowers schools to develop incident reporting mechanisms, establish collaborations with external stakeholders such as the South African Police Service (SAPS), the Department of Social Development and civil society organisations, as well as develop school safety plans and policies to respond effectively to all the safety needs and challenges." 

In addition to the Department implementing various strategies, schools are also required (by the DBE) to develop and put in place anti-bullying policies, that are in line with their Codes of Conduct.

Additionally, the Life Orientation Curriculum taught in schools covers bullying in detail and advises on how to prevent it, and the Department has prepared lesson sets for the delivery of these topics.

Understanding peaceful approaches to conflict management are also covered systematically across the grades, elaborated the DBE. 

"These policies define bullying and explains the different types of bullying (for example, physical, verbal, non-verbal, cyber, gender-based, etc.) so that the behaviours are recognisable; the policies make explicit the disciplinary procedures to be undertaken once an incidence is reported and the sanctions which will be undertaken against the perpetrators," explained the DBE.  

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

The Department and its partner Departments (Social Development, Justice and Constitutional Development, Correctional Services, the South African Police Service and the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies) have embarked on an "Inter-Departmental Campaign on the Prevention of Violence, Bullying, Corporal Punishment, Gender-Based Violence (GBV), Learner Pregnancy, Alcohol and Drug Abuse." 

This Campaign raises awareness on the importance of tackling these social ills and raises awareness on the negative effects they have on teaching and learning in schools and on learners self esteem.

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.  

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.

Although government and the 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.

The above-mentioned campaign targets districts and schools that have a high prevalence of violence in the provinces where they are located.

To date, the Campaign has been rolled out in five provinces: Gauteng (Gauteng West District), Limpopo (Sekhukhune East District), Mpumalanga (Nkangala District) and the North West (Dr Kenneth Kaunda District).

The next Campaign is scheduled to take place in the Eastern Cape in Nelson Mandela Bay District during March 2023.


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