More than 190 learners in Grade 3‚ 4 and 5 fell pregnant between 2014 and 2016‚ a response to a parliamentary question has revealed.
If learners from Grade 6 and 7 who fell pregnant are taken into account‚ the number jumps to 1‚449.
“This information should shock every South African‚” the DA’s MP and basic education portfolio committee member Sonja Boshoff said in a statement.
“Young girls‚ most under the legal age of 16‚ are having their futures undermined‚ likely through being taken advantage of or abused‚” Boshoff said.
She said further urgent questions would be submitted to ascertain whether these girls were under the age of 16‚ and if so‚ if any charges have been instituted against those responsible.
“We will also investigate whether these girls have since returned back to school‚ following the birth of their child‚ what support the school and the Department of Basic Education have provided them to catch up on the syllabus‚ and whether counselling and other emotional support has been provided‚” Boshoff said.
Further numbers from the parliamentary reply show that 18‚357 pupils fell pregnant in 2014‚ 15‚504 in 2015‚ and 8‚732 in 2016.
“Although the overall numbers seem to indicate a drop in school pregnancies‚ the department was not able to provide the statistics for Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal.”
“Traditionally‚ these two provinces account for large numbers of school pregnancies‚ a total of 6‚477 in 2014 and 5‚178 in 2015 combined.”
In March last year‚ TimesLIVE reported that teenagers are at very high risk of dying in childbirth and South Africa has one of the highest childbirth death rates in the world — far higher than poorer African countries such as Equatorial Guinea.
Priscilla Reddy of the Human Sciences Research Council said 11% of all teenage girls fell pregnant every year in South Africa as their under-developed bodies put them at risk of complications in pregnancy.
But‚ she said‚ many teenagers died of issues that could easily be detected and managed at clinics.
Almost 20% of all women who die in childbirth in South Africa are teenagers‚ even though they make up fewer than 10% of mothers in the country.
• About a quarter of deaths were caused by high blood pressure‚ a common problem encountered in pregnancy and one that health workers could be treating.
• Another 25% of the deaths were due to high-risk girls not being referred from small clinics and far-flung hospitals to large hospitals with specialists and better facilities.
• Another quarter are attributable to teenagers not being treated for other diseases such as tuberculosis or HIV.
Reddy has received funding from the UK Wellcome Trust for a study that will intervene and get teenagers connected to antenatal care.
In separate research conducted by Reddy and the HSRC‚ teenagers said the shame of being pregnant meant they tried to hide their condition for as long as possible and did not seek healthcare.