Teen pregnancies 'tragedy'
Over 1 000 Khomas learners now moms
30 July 2019 | Social Issues
Ombudsman John Walters has described this as a “tragedy”, while deputy gender minister Lucia Witbooi said there is “no excuse” for young girls to fall pregnant, while sex education information is readily available. The Khomas education directorate revealed the figures to Namibian Sun, following an enquiry related to recent statistics from the Oshana Region, which indicated that 88 learners, including two grade 7 girls, had fallen pregnant in the first term. Eighty secondary school learners, five from primary schools and four from resource or special schools in Khomas have fallen pregnant during the first term, the Khomas education directorate revealed to Namibian Sun.
In 2018, 268 teenage pregnancies were recorded, while in 2017 a total of 180 schoolgirls fell pregnant.
In 2016, 266 Khomas learners fell pregnant and 288 in 2015.
Khomas education director Gerard Vries said there is a framework in place that makes it obligatory for teachers and adult support staff at schools to take care of pregnant learners.
“The girls are not necessarily singled out, but the boys that are involved in this are also sent for counselling. Our ideal is that learners remain in the school or return to school. We do everything in our capacity to make sure this is accomplished,” he said.
According to him minimal cases involve adult men and have been reported as rape.
According to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) statistics the Kunene, Omaheke and Kavango regions have all registered an over 30% teenage pregnancy rate, compared with the national rate of 19%.
Children's rights activist Rosa Namises said these teenage pregnancy rates are a cry for help, adding that children with disabilities, who attend special schools, need care and love the most.
Tantamount to rape
“If special schools are included, and you consider the vulnerability of the girls, then this is tantamount to rape. Very important again would be to see who the men are, and I can assure you that most of them would be adult men. I can see a whole new wave of engagements with girls without their consent, especially involving biological fathers, stepfathers or teachers,” she said.
Namises added it is unacceptable for the government to report teenage pregnancies in primary schools year in and year out, without doing something to address the issue effectively.
“We need action now. We need the gender minister and female parents to step up and act. Even people like Rosa Namises must also stop commenting. I have an action plan that we must implement, we must take that step.”
Walters expressed his shock about pregnancies in primary schools and echoed Namises' sentiments that “talk is cheap”.
“What are we as parents and stakeholders doing to educate our young girls and boys to not start engaging in sex while at school? It seems there is no preventative public education for learners,” he said.
Walters said a solution must be found, adding that parents must start having frank conversations with their children.
“I do not think we are doing much to address this, otherwise the numbers would not have been increasing. It is a tragedy that a young girl's career is changed and she may not continue her education because she is suddenly a mother,” he added.
Witbooi said the ministry is “at pains” to address the high school pregnancy rates across the country, but claimed further that enough is being done.
She added that some girls may not be conscious of the consequences of unprotected sex.