Close to 700 learners, including those still in primary school, have fallen pregnant in the Eastern Cape over the past two years, with the figures climbing year-on-year.
When a baby is born to a teenage mother, it places tremendous pressure on her, often resulting in her having to drop out of school to raise the child, trapping yet another generation in institutionalised poverty.
Responding to a parliamentary question, MEC for Education, Mandla Makupula, indicated that 346 learners became pregnant in 2016, and 349 became pregnant in 2017.
Of these, 557 learners were from secondary schools and 111 were from combined schools. More alarming, however, were the 19 reported pregnancies among learners attending primary school, and a further five learners with special education needs (LSEN), became pregnant.
I am deeply concerned that pregnancies among primary school learners is continuing.
Earlier this year, along with the Education portfolio committee, I visited schools in the Elliotdale district. During my visit, it was found that 42 high school learners from one school and 12 learners from the adjacent primary school had become pregnant thus far in 2018.
These numbers and the upward trend are extremely disturbing and are a clear indication that the strategies the Department are implementing, are not working.
I urge the Department to relook at the strategies which they have implemented in dealing with learner pregnancies and encourage them to investigate the circumstances that are leading to these high numbers of pregnancies among learners.
The DA believes that education is a constitutional right, a basic human right, a strategic priority and the best possible vehicle to empower South Africans and to develop our country. Quality education is the key to improved quality of life. It empowers individuals to obtain a fulfilling job, contribute to the economy and utilise their talents to the full.
Learners who fall pregnant and drop out of school are losing out on the opportunity of upskilling themselves and being empowered through education to make informed decisions about their futures.
A Democratic Alliance led government will seek to ensure that our children are nurtured to become accomplished citizens who have the requisite skills needed for access to better jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities.
Edmund van Vuuren
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