By Patience Nyangove
THE government policy that allows pregnant learners to continue attending school before giving birth, has led to more teenagers falling pregnant across the country, as girls emulate their sexually active peers.
This finding is contained in a report compiled by the National Council Women Caucus Outreach, following visits to the //Karas, Hardap, Zambezi, Kavango West and Ohangwena regions between 12 and 16 September last year.
The report also states that most adults are now against the government policy allowing pregnant learners to return to their school desks, as it is not having the desired results.
According to a United Nations Population Fund report that was released last year, 46 000 teenagers fell pregnant in Namibia during 2013, which translates to an average of 127 pregnancies per day.
“Many people are against the (school) policy on teenage pregnancy, because it seems it is contributing to more pregnancy among learners. It has become like a fashion among the learners to get pregnant while at school, because pregnant learners are freely walking, majestically in the corridors of schools,” The National Council report said.
“One of the schools headmasters reported a case of a learner, who came to pick up something from the school with her newborn baby… and her fellow learners gathered around her congratulating, her on her new baby, and one could see that they were admiring the baby.
“This will lead others to become pregnant, as well, because they think it is cool to have a baby, while still attending school,” the report said.
It also noted that even if it’s the education minister’s policy that pregnant learners should continue, while they await the birth of their baby, the majority of such learners never pass their exams.
“It has been noted that most of the girls who fell pregnant don’t get successful results after the examinations, and in most cases, they also fall pregnant for a second time, by the time they reach Grade 12.
“The community is of the opinion that girls must be given the whole year off, to feed their babies and return to school after a year.”
The report also points out that the majority of interventions to reduce teenage pregnancies, like awareness campaigns, have dismally failed to yield any positive results.
“Pregnancy among school girls is a major concern in the country. Many interventions, such as awareness, have been done to try to address the problem, but the number of pregnancies among teenagers is still high… The statistics of pregnant learners received from Kavango East region for the first quarter alone, in 2016, was 239.
“The Rundu Senior Secondary School is top of the list, with 20 cases, and these cases involved girls from Grade 5 to 12,” the report said.
It further added that teachers and parents blamed the absence of more extramural activities in towns, as one of the major reasons why teenagers are engaged in sexual activity.
Human rights activist, Rosa Namises, blamed the lack of sexual education and life skills training in schools, as the major reason the country continues to struggle with a high rate of teenage pregnancy.
“We need to go back to the drawing board, because we started on a wrong foot. The education ministry policy can only work if these girls are made to understand the issues surrounding sexual activity, contraceptives and pregnancy. There should have been a bigger campaign targeting sexual activity among teenagers first, and this policy to allow pregnant learners to continue at school, should have been a last resort,” Namises said.
“The reason why these kids are admiring their pregnant peers is because they don’t understand sexuality issues; they think it’s a game. I think they should be big campaigns on sexual education. The current government policy is not addressing sexual education and empowering learners, when it comes to issues that deal with sex.
“It only deals with the issue of them going back to school. We should not shy away from talking to these teenagers about sex and power relations, because when we shy away, they end up being molested and abused, due to our discomfort to talk about sex education at schools.”
National Council Chairperson, Margaret Mensah-Williams, told Confidente last week that teenage pregnancies were also as a result of some parents encouraging their children to sleep with older men, for money.
“Some parents allow these kids to sleep with men for money, or in some cases the parents don’t stay with their children, or these teenagers live in child-headed homes; so for them to survive, they have to sleep with people like taxi drivers, who give them money.”
Ministry of Education Permanent Secretary, Sanet Steenkamp, said there have been misconceptions about the policy that allows learners to remain in school, after they fall pregnant.
“There have been areas of misinterpretation and misconception, as to what this policy seeks to achieve. The policy is not an approval stamp for pupils to fall pregnant, but a tool to prevent, manage and ensure that all learners are fully engaged. Our aim is to assist learners who fall pregnant, and ensure that they successfully complete school,” Steenkamp said.
“The goal of the policy is to improve the prevention and management of learner pregnancy, with the ultimate aim of decreasing the number of learner pregnancies, and increasing the number of learner-parents, who complete their education. The policy is based on six guiding principles, namely: The right to education of the girl child, the need for prevention, information, respect, support and respect for cultural and family values,” she added.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015