- Education ministry shattered, calling for parents intervention
Mbabane – Primary school pupils, as young as 12 years of age are among learners who got pregnant during the forced school break. The break was caused by surging Covid-19 cases and the repercussions of the political unrest.
According to the Ministry of Education Director Guidance and Counselling, Lindiwe Dlamini, educators have approached the ministry to report many challenges they now face at schools as a result of the long forced school break mainly as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19 among other issues.
During a recorded radio programme, Asibonisane Ngemfundvo, hosted by the Ministry’s Communications Officer, Gugu Masuku, Dlamini, featured with Counsellor Lindiwe “Ngci” Dube said they wanted to encourage parents to play their role in stopping pupils’ bad behaviour.
The Director said, “another serious challenge is the pregnancies among female pupils. The numbers have drastically shot up. We have witnessed pregnancies among very young pupils who are in primary school. What is sad is that they are not impregnated by their peers but by adults who take advantage of their situation.”
Dube continued, “We were shocked and shattered as a ministry because we are talking of children as young as 12 years of age here which is why we are now calling for help as this thing is continuing to spread. Teachers are playing their role but parents don’t pay much attention. Parents must warn children against ‘sugar daddies’.”
She also confirmed to Independent News that, “In 2020 we had 1 760 pregnancies.” Masuku on the other hand indicated that her office was yet to get hold of the latest statistics and these were for the forced school break amid the COVID-19 plague.
It was highlighted that apart from pregnancies, other challenges reported by educator during workshops included the participation of pupils in political protests which prompted them to turn violent at schools, something the director said they have also witnessed on media platforms such as television.
“We have also received reports that some pupils have embarked on illegal businesses. They have started to bake dagga scones and cakes which they sell to other pupils at school. They also bring to school spiked pop corns to give to other learners,” she said.
The Ministry also reported that teachers have noted with serious concern that some of the pupils, following the forced break and implementation of rotational learning, have lost interest with school or education. Dlamini said they would go to school having not done their homework even if they had many days to do it.
She added, “We encourage parents to be concerned on what their children’s school bags are carrying because there are a lot of things that they usually conceal in those bags. Parents must take it upon themselves to search their children’s bags before they leave for school every morning. They must search for weapons, drugs, alcohol and other items meant to enable bad behaviour. Parents should also ask their children about their homework immediately they arrive home from school.”
The Ministry further warned parents to be cautious of the kind of friends their children have. The Director of guidance and counselling said bad friends would introduce other pupils to drug usage. She also made emphasis on the fact that parents must control television viewing for their children as they end up watching or exposed to programmes only intended for adult viewing.
“We also wish to warn parents against exposing their children to dangerous situations which might end up making the children vulnerable to crimes such as rape. These include allowing sleep overs at a friend’s place or weekend outs. The parent might not really know the kind of people the family of the friend to which she allowed her child to visit are.”
Meanwhile, it was recently reported that the number of children born to teen mothers in South Africa’s most populous province, Gauteng, has jumped 60 percent since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Save the Children concerned for the well-being of both mothers and babies.
New figures from the Gauteng Department of Health showed that more than 23,000 girls aged under 18 gave birth between April 2020 and March 2021 – of which 934 were aged under 14 – compared to 14,577 girls aged 19 and under having babies in the same period a year earlier.
Gauteng is home to more than 15 million people, a quarter of South Africa’s population, and includes the country’s largest city, Johannesburg, and its administrative capital, Pretoria.
Early pregnancy and motherhood in South Africa forces many girls to drop out of school, traps many in a cycle of poverty dependant on public assistance, and leaves many stigmatised by society for being teenage mothers or forced into early marriage.