Motshekga admits that 90 037 school girls gave birth in past year

A total of 90 037 schoolgirls aged 10 to 19 gave birth in South Africa in the past year. This alarming figure was revealed by Basic Education Angie Motshekga last week in her written response to parliament’s portfolio committee on basic education.

Sunday World has also established through the department of health’s records that of the girls who gave birth, 3 011 were aged 10 to 14 years.

Motshekga was responding to a written inquiry by the DA’s Desiree van der Walt early last month, asking her to provide the number of girls aged 12 to 19 who gave birth in the period March 2021 to April 2022 in each province.

Van der Walt also wanted to know what support was given to the pupils.

In her response, Motshekga said according to data from the Department of Health, the number of deliveries by the girls in the time period was 24 230 (KwaZulu-Natal), 13 814 (Gauteng), 12 582 (Eastern Cape), 11 287 (Limpopo), 8 840 (Mpumalanga), 6 543 (Western Cape), 5 635 (North West), 4 444 (Free State) and 2 662(Northern Cape).

“Schools are required to provide an environment where all pregnant learners can access professional information, advice, referrals, treatment, care, counselling and support.

“Therefore, other departments also have a role to play in ensuring that the pregnant learners are linked to services such as antenatal and postnatal care provided by the Health Department and the Department of Social Development, and Sassa [SA Social Security Agency] for access to the child support grant and other social support, among others,” she said. “The department protects the rights of learners to education including continuation of schooling … and provision of continuous educational support post-delivery while facilitating earliest return to school.

“Furthermore, through partners such as Global Fund, learners are given early childhood development (ECD) vouchers so that they can leave their children in ECD centres while the learner is continuing with schooling.”

Sunday World asked the Department of Basic Education how many of the pregnant girls were under 16, and how many cases were reported to the relevant authorities as required by law?

Spokesperson for the department, Elijah Mhlanga, said: “The information is obtained from the Department of Health, the authority collecting this kind of details. In terms of whether the cases have been reported, that would be the SAPS [SA Police Service] itself as we don’t manage that type of information.”

Asked whether the department had collated more comprehensive stats for this year, when the policy on the prevention and management of pupil pregnancies became effective, Mhlanga had not responded by the time of going to print.

Health department spokesperson Foster Mohale said his department and Basic Education do not collect data on the pregnancies involving boys aged 10 to 19 years.

“It is only now that the Social Development Department is training healthcare workers on completion of Form 22, which is an annexure of the Children’s Act [used] to report child abuse,” he said.

Van der Walt said: “Girls between the ages of 12 and 16 cannot give consent to sex, and it is rape. Between 16 and 18, girls can give consent.

“We are concerned at the huge gap between teenage pregnancies and reported sexual offences, as schools are compelled to report pregnancies of girls between the ages of 12 and 16, and pregnancies of girls aged 16 if the father is older than 16, to the police.”

She used as an example the crime stats in her province, Limpopo.

“The total reported sexual offences in Limpopo between April 2021 and March 2022 is 4 314. This includes rapes, sexual assault, attempted rape and contact sexual offences against women, girls and boys of all ages. During the same period, 11 287 girls between the ages of 12 and 19 fell pregnant.”

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