Research shows that In the first quarter of 2021, more than 36,000 babies were delivered to girls between the ages of 10 and 19.
According to the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) the issue of teenage pregnancy is one that requires a multi-pronged and multi-stakeholder collaboration effort to resolve.
SADTU head of secretariat, Xolani Fakude says that the union has always acknowledged that learners have rights, as well as the learners who are pregnant.
Recently, complaints have been raised about schools attempting to ban pregnant learners from writing examinations as well as a lack of response from the provincial education authorities to address said complaints.
This comes after, two pregnant learners at a school in KwaZulu-Natal voiced that they were kicked out ahead of the start of matric exams.
Earlier this year the Department of Basic Education (DBE) launched its Learner Pregnancy Policy, which was meant to address a legislative vacuum that resulted in discriminatory and exclusionary practices.
The policy was put in place to reduce learner pregnancy and dropouts, and to safeguard learners’ rights to access education both during and after pregnancy.
However, despite the policy being in place, recent events have suggested that more needs to be done in terms of protecting the rights of pregnant learners in schools.
SA Human Rights Commissioner, Andre Gaum says that one of the newer developments that can support rights for pregnant learners is the protocol of the elimination of discrimination in and through schools that has been released after being approved by the council of education ministers this year.
Gaum explains that the protocol states very clearly in respect of pregnancy, that the laws are clear, adding that learners who become or have been pregnant have an equal right to be free from discrimination and to receive and complete quality education.
“We believe it is a matter of implementation, education and the promotion of Human Rights and we need to speed up our efforts in that regard to ensure that policies are not only in the law books but that they are implemented.”
He says that the SAHRC is working with the DBE to have a model human rights code of contact and a broad diversity and sensitivity intervention programmes in schools that will involve parents, learners, student representative councils and as teachers.
Parents and learners who come across unfair discrimination on the basis of teenage regency are encouraged to report and bring it to attention of the commission so that it can be addressed and resolved.