News | South Africa
Boys do not feature in the department of basic education’s grand plan to reduce underage pregnancy.
On Tuesday, the department submitted a draft policy to members of Cabinet aimed at decreasing the high underage pregnancy rate in schools during the lockdowns.
The department said a multisectoral approach was needed, involving the departments of basic education, health, social development, women, justice and the South African Police Service (Saps).
The department proposed approaches such as comprehensive sexuality education and an age-tailored combination prevention programme for adolescent girls and young women aged 10 to 19.
South African Teachers’ Union spokesperson Stephan van den Berg said the union believed that comprehensive sexual education could be a viable solution to underage pregnancy.
“But we have serious reservations regarding the proposed content of the learning and teaching support materials proposed last year by the department,” he said.
He said communities should make their own determinations regarding the content and age appropriateness of the sexual education taught in their schools.
The Democratic Alliance’s Khume Ramulifho said law enforcement agencies had failed to protect vulnerable people.
“Many departments have policies but no integration, they don’t talk to each other. No one takes responsibility,” he said.
Khume said there were many policies in place, but lack of effective implementation was a big problem.
He added that the department’s policy must include boy children too.
“The policies were mostly biased towards girl children based on the number of cases affecting girl children as victims and the most vulnerable,” he said.
He said this was because girl children fell pregnant and ended up dropping out of school.
“The boy child may not necessarily be the perpetrator in this regard.
“Some elderly men use their resources to win over girl children, and buy protection from roleplayers like parents, law enforcement agencies and society at large so they don’t get prosecuted for statutory rape, even though they impregnated children,” he said.
Khume added that effective implementation and assessment of progress on a regular basis and holding each department accountable for what they were meant to do would assist more than merely having policies.
Founder of Kids in Distress South Africa Salome’ V Tadford registered a nonprofit organisation dedicated to supporting underage mothers to be after she gave birth to two children before the age of 14.
Tadford was raped and impregnated at the age of 12 by a family friend. “Five months later I was pregnant and I didn’t know how it happened,” Tadford said.
She later gave birth to a baby girl who she kept. The following year Tadford fell pregnant again when she was raped by a family member at the age of 13.
Tadford also kept the baby boy. “In 1982 my parents got divorced. That’s when the social workers showed up to take my three-month-old son away to be adopted.”
Tadford has not seen her son, who will celebrate his 40th birthday on 20 September, since that day.
She was sent to a reformatory while her daughter ended up in an orphanage. She got married in 1983 and she and her husband went to court to readopt Tadford’s then seven-year-old daughter.
She added: “We need to safeguard our girls. It’s not about discrimination against them but to keep them safe.”