Teen pregnancy figures show how we fail our children
The Times Editorial: Our front-page story today reveals the heartbreaking extent of teenage pregnancy in Gauteng. Elsewhere in South Africa it cannot be much better.
The story is an indictment of South African society and of our failing our children on so many fronts.
The statistics we quote show that we too often fail to protect our young people from making significant mistakes early in life, that we merely pay lip service to gender equality, that there has been a breakdown of cohesive family structures and that sex education in our schools is not working.
How else can we account for primary school pupils becoming parents, and young people having unprotected sex and being entangled in unequal relationships with older men?
Teen pregnancies are not a new phenomenon but our story shows an alarming worsening of the trend.
The reality is that teen pregnancies hijack children's lives, turning them into adults long before they should have to think of the responsibilities of rearing a child.
They imprison young women, handicapping them in terms of education, society, health and employment opportunities. Not only will the girls carry the stigma of having been cheap and easy, they are often unable to complete their education and end up as unskilled labourers.
How do we begin to halt this pandemic of pregnancies when the battle must be fought on so many fronts?
Government institutions, such as the departments of health and of education, must strengthen their efforts to teach children about the risks of unprotected sex - not only to prevent pregnancy but also because of HIV/Aids. Families must take responsibility for their young, instead of leaving sex education to schools.
Unless we become a truly free country, in which gender equality goes far beyond pitiable platitudes, our girls will forever be held hostage to the power games devised by men.