Cape Town - The DA has expressed concern with the gap between teenage pregnancies and reported offences involving girls aged between 10 and 19.
“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,” DA MP Desiree Van der Walt said.
Van der Salt maintained that girls between the ages of 12 and 16 cannot give consent to sex, and it must be proved among those aged 16 and 18.
She made the comment after Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga revealed that girls aged between 10 and 19 had recorded 90 000 teenage pregnancies between April 2020 and March 2022.
Motshekga said she obtained the data from the Department of Health, showing that KwaZulu-Natal again recorded the highest number of teenage pregnancies at 24 230.
Gauteng recorded 13 814 teenage pregnancies, Eastern Cape 12 582, Limpopo 11287 and Mpumalanga 8840.
The Western Cape recorded 6543 teenage pregnancies, North West 5635, Free State 4444 and Northern Cape 2662.
The figures appear fewer than those recorded by Statistics South Africa three months ago.
StatsSA had in March annual data on live births recorded in the country found that a total of 106 383 births registered at the Home Affairs Department occurred among adolescents in 2019.
It also found 129 223 births were delivered by adolescents in public health facilities.
In a reply to questions from Van der Walt, Motshekga said schools were required to provide an environment where all pregnant learners could access professional information advice, referrals, treatment, care, counselling and support.
“The department protects the rights of learners to education including continuation of schooling through accommodating reasonable absence due to pregnancy 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,” she said.
The minister also said other departments had a role to play in ensuring that the pregnant learners were linked to services such as antenatal and postnatal care provided by the Health Department.
The Department of Social Development and South African Social Security Agency provided access to the child support grant and other social support, among others, she said.
When asked what steps were being taken by her department to educate the learners with long-term career implications and implications of falling pregnant at a young age without finishing school, Motshekga said the comprehensive sexuality education was offered through life skills and life orientation.
She stated pupils were taught about goal setting and how they could reach their full potential.
“Furthermore, the department also holds Career Jamborees and Future Choice where learners get to see different career paths that they can choose,” the minister said.
Motshekga said the Career Jamborees and Future Choice campaigns were held with other government departments, including health.
“Sexual reproductive health and rights information and services are provided, which includes content on the consequences of early and unintended pregnancy,” she added.
Van der Walt said she would ask follow-up questions to Motshekga to determine the ages of the girls that fell pregnant and how many of these incidents were reported to the police and social workers.
“I will also ask questions to determine the drop-out rate of pregnant learners and what is being done by the department to prevent it, and what is being done to retain girl children who have given birth in the system,” she said.